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ST.  JOHN  OF  DAMASCUS 


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^l  \\\t  ll«<*%ial  ^.,  . 


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PRINCETON,    N.    J. 


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BR  1705  .F4  J64  1832 
^^  Lupton,  Joseph  Hirst,  1836 
«■   1905. 
'  s/^eif. ..i,  St.  John  of  Damascus 


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ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


// 


Z\)t  jTatbrid  for  (!;ngli<5i)  Ixrnlirrs. 


ST.   JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS, 


BY   THL 
/ 

REV.   J.  H.   LUPTON,   M.A., 

SURMASTER    OF    ST.     PAULS    SCHOOL,    AND    FORMERLY    FKLLOW 
OF  ST.    JOHNS    COLLEGE,    CAMBRIDGE. 


PUBLISHED   rNDER    THE    DIRECTION    OF    THE    TRACT   COMMITTER. 


LONDON: 
SOCIETY  FOR  PROMOTING  CHRISTLAN  KNOWLEDGE. 

NORTHUMBERLAND   AVENUE,    CHARING    CROSS,    S.W.  ; 

43,    QLEEN    VICTORIA    STREET,    B.C.   ;      48,    PICCADIIJ.Y,    W.  ;      ANU 

135,    NORTH    STRKF.T,    nRIGIITON. 


NEW    VORK  :     E.    &   J.    B.    YOUNG   &    CO. 
1882. 


PREFACE 


The  fact  that  this  little  volume  is  one  of  a  series  on 
a  settled  plan,  and  with  well-defined  limits,  may 
obviate  in  some  measure  the  charge  of  presumption 
to  which  the  author  would  otherwise  have  been  liable. 
For  to  portray,  in  anything  like  due  proportion,  such 
an  historical  character  as  John  of  Damascus,  would 
require  a  far  larger  canvas  and  a  hand  of  more  varied 
powers.  It  is  not  indeed  too  much  to  say  that,  for 
any  adequate  representation  of  such  a  character,  a 
threefold  ability  would  be  needful.  For  besides  his 
position  as  a  theologian  of  the  Eastern  Church,  we 
have  to  regard  him  as  closely  connected  with  the  rise 
of  Mahometanism ;  and,  further  still,  as  a  Christian 
poet,  whose  hymns  are  sung  by  myriads  at  this  very 
day.  But  while  feeling  how  incomplete,  on  that 
account,  such  an  essay  as  the  present  one  must  of 
necessity  be,  the  author  has  endeavoured  to  make 
it  of  some  little  value,  as  the  result  of  an  attentive 
study  of  the  writings  of  St.  John  Damascene. 

In  the  spelling  of  Arabic  or  Mahometan  names,  no 
attempt  at  uniformity  has  been  made.  Hardly  any 
two  writers  agree  in  this  respect ;  and  hence,  when  a 
quotation  has  been  made  from  any  authority  on  the 


VI  PREFACE. 

subject,   the   form   there   found   has   been   retained. 
This  may  explain  some  apparent  inconsistencies. 

Besides  the  special  acknowledgments  recorded  in 
the  notes,  mention  should  here  be  made  of  the  advan- 
tage gained  from  two  works,  the  Hymns  of  the  Eastern 
Churchy  by  the  late  Dr.  Neale,  and  the  articles  in  La 
Belgigue  (1861)  on  S.  Jean  Damascene,  by  M.  Felix 
Neve.  The  excellent  monograph  of  Dr.  Joseph  Langen, 
Johannes  vofi  Damashis  (1879),  did  not  come  into  the 
author's  hands  till  the  greater  part  of  his  own  work 
was  completed;  but  a  few  remarks  or  corrections  due 
to  it  have  been  inserted.  It  was  only  at  the  last 
moment  also  that  he  learnt  that  the  Funeral  Hymn 
of  St.  John  of  Damascus,  of  which  a  rendering  is 
given  at  p.  150,  had  been  already  translated  by  Dr. 
Littledale,  and  published  in  the  People's  Hymnal. 
Had  he  been  aware  of  this  in  time,  he  would  gladly 
have  availed  himself  of  the  abler  version. 


St.  Paul's  School, 


November  25///,  1881. 


CONTENTS. 


I.— LIFE. 

Chai'tek  Pace 

I.     Damascus       i 

II,     The  Monastery  OF  St.  Sabas 8 

III.  The  Mahometan  Rule  in  Syria    ...  14 

IV.  JuHN  Mansouk      23 

V.     The     Greek     Church      in     the     Eighih 

Century      37 

VT.     The  Iconoclastic  Controversy  ;• 


VII. 

VIII. 

IX. 

X. 

XI. 

XII. 

XIII. 


XIV 


II.— WRITINGS. 

The  "  FoNs  SciENTi.i:"      

On  THE  Mahometan  Controversy        

Sermons  

Hymns      

Commentaries  on  Holy  Scrii'iuke 

On  Natural  Science 

DouHTFUL  Writings  :  — (i)  "  Barlaam  and 

Joasai'h  ;"   (2)    "Panegyric  on   St.   I1\r- 

bara" 

CoNCLUSiu.N      


64 

90 

102 

141 

i5() 
166 


iSq 


AlM'ENDl-X 


ST.  JOHN  OF   DAMASCUS. 


CHAP  V  1-:  R      I . 

DAMASCUS. 

In  giving  an  account  of  any  eminent  man,  it  is 
natural  to  bestow  some  attention  on  the  place  from 
NS'hich  he  sprang.  Just  as  our  knowledge  of  some 
scarce  plant  could  not  be  thought  complete  if  wc 
had  no  information  about  the  soil  in  which  it  grew, 
so  we  can  seldom  understand  fully  the  life  and  cha- 
racter of  a  great  man  without  studying  the  surround- 
ings amidst  which  he  was  born.  But  the  strength 
and  importance  of  this  connecting  link  vary  very 
considerably  in  different  cases.  'J1ic  history  of  a 
Cyril  is  closely  interwoven  with  that  of  Alexandria 
in  his  time  ;  that  of  Gregory  with  Nazianzus  ;  that  of 
our  own  Bede  with  Jarrow  and  Monkwearmouth.  But 
in  the  case  of  John  of  Damascus,  while  his  native 
city  has  given  him  tlie  name  by  which  he  is  always 
distinguished,  its  influence  upon  his  character  and 
the  ultimate  course  of  his  life  does  not  seem  to  have 
been  important.  In  his  extant  writings  he  makes 
little  or  no  allusion  to  it.  Invents  which  hapi)cned 
iIktc  were  no  doubt  the  immediate  cause  of  a  great 

K 


2  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

and  decisive  change  in  his  career.  But  that  change 
— the  change  from  the  excitement  of  state  affairs  to 
the  seclusion  of  a  monastery — was  probably  due  to 
the  bent  of  his  own  mind,  and  would  have  equally 
taken  place  amid  other  surroundings.  It  is  with  the 
Convent  of  St.  Sabas,  or  with  Jerusalem,  that  we 
associate  the  really  prolific  period  of  his  life.  When 
there,  Damascus  was  to  him  but  one  spot  in  that 
outer  world  which  he  had  forsaken.  From  that  time 
forward  we  fail  to  discern  that  it  had  any  special 
interest  for  him. 

Still,  as  being  after  all  the  place  in  which  he  first 
drew  breath,  Damascus  cannot  fail  to  have  a  strong 
interest  for  anyone  studying  the  life  of  this  dis- 
tinguished scion  of  it.  And  even  apart  from  this, 
Damascus  has  claims  on  our  regard  such  as  few 
other  cities  possess.  For  it  is  probably  the  most 
ancient  city  now  standing  in  the  world.  It  was 
existing  in  the  days  of  Abraham,  whose  steward 
Eliezer  was  a  native  of  it.  Josephus  ascribes  its 
foundation  to  Uz,  a  grandson  of  Shem.  Its  chequered 
fortune  during  the  reigns  of  the  kings  of  Israel  is 
familiar  to  us  from  the  Bible  story.  While  Rome  was 
as  yet  scarcely  founded,  one  long  term  of  the  history 
of  Damascus  was  being  brought  to  a  close  by  its  cap- 
ture by  Tiglath-Pileser,  when  its  leading  inhabitants 
were  carried  away  captives  to  Kir.  For  a  long  period 
after  -this,  partly  from  its  being  but  an  appanage  of 
the  Assyrian  empire,  and  partly  from  the  subsequent 
rise  of  the  rival  city  of  Antioch,  it  remained  in  com- 
parative obscurity.  A  passing  compliment  to  its  beauty 
and  importance  by  Strabo,  a  notice  of  the  alabaster 


DAMASCUS.  3 

found  there  by  Pliny,  and  the  somewliat  strange 
epithet  of  "windy"  applied  to  it  by  Lucan,  are  the 
chief  allusions  to  be  met  with  in  classical  authors^ 
When  Ponipey  overran  Syria,  it  was  brought  under 
Roman  sway.  In  the  time  of  St.  Paul  it  was  subject 
to  the  rule  of  the  King  of  Petra,  having  lately  been 
transferred  to  that  government  by  Caligula.  To  the 
Apostle  Paul  no  spot  could  be  fraught  with  associa- 
tions of  intenser  interest  than  Damascus.  Near  its 
walls  was  the  scene  of  that  heavenly  vision  which 
changed  the  whole  life  of  the  man  who  changed  the 
world.  No  perils  that  he  afterwards  went  through 
seem  to  have  made  a  deeper  impression  on  his  mind 
than  his  escape  as  a  fugitive  from  its  battlements. 
The  "  street  that  is  called  Straight "  still  remains, 
running  for  the  length  of  a  mile  due  east  and  west  ; 
but  alas  1  how  changed.  In  those  days  it  was  one 
hundred  feet  in  width,  and  divided  by  Corinthian 
colonnades  into  three  avenues  ;  while  midway  along 
its  course  the  wayfarer  passed  under  a  Roman 
triumphal  arch  of  noble  proportions.  Now,  "  remains 
of  the  colonnades  and  gates  may  still  be  traced,  but 
time   has   destroyed   every   vestige  of  their  original 

*  See  article  "Damascus"  in  Smith's  "Dictionary  of  Geo- 
graphy." It  may  perhaps  be  said  in  defence  of  Lucan 's 
epithet  {'*  ventosa  Damascus,"  iii.  215),  that  it  is  not  quite 
certain  whether  he  may  not  have  meant  to  refer  to  the  cha- 
racter of  its  inhabitants,  as  when  Cicero  spoke  of  "homo 
ventosissimus,"  Epp.  ad.  Fani.  xi.  9.  If  it  be  a  literal  imita- 
tion of  Homer's  "  windy  Ilium,"  it  is  not  impossible  to  find  a 
justification  for  it  in  what  travellers  tell  us  of  the  fierce  hurri- 
canes  of  wind  that  traverse  the  deep  ravines  leading  to  the 
garden-like  plain  of  Damascus  itself. 
IJ    2 


4  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

magnificence.  At  present  the  street,  instead  of  the 
lordly  proportions  which  once  called  forth  the 
stranger's  admiration,  has  been  contracted  by  suc- 
cessive encroachments  into  a  narrow  passage,  more 
resembling  a  by-lane  than  the  principal  avenue  of  a 
noble  city."^ 

From  the  time  of  St.  Paul  onwards  it  continued 
under  the  dominion  of  Rome  till  its  capture  by  the 
Saracens  in  a.d.  634.  The  incidents  of  that  capture 
may  be  more  properly  noticed  wiien  we  come  to 
speak  of  the  Mahometan  rule  in  Syria.  Its  sub- 
sequent fortunes,  after  the  seat  of  Mahometan  rule 
had  been  transferred  to  Bagdad,  in  763,  may  be  very 
briefly  related.  After  being  unsuccessfully  besieged 
by  the  Crusaders  in  11 48,  it  was  taken  by  Tamerlane 
in  T400,  and  destroyed  by  fire  the  following  year.  In 
15 16  it  fell  into  the  hands  of  the  Turks,  who  retained 
possession  of  it  till  1832,  when  it  was  captured  by 
Ibrahim  Pacha.-  The  greater  indulgence  shown  to 
Christians  from  that  date  excited  the  bitter  animosity 
of  the  Mahometan  population,  who  have  the  reputa- 
tion of  being  the  greatest  fanatics  in  the  East.  "  The 
steady  advance  of  the  Christian  community  in  wealth 
and  numbers  during  the  last  thirty  years,"  says  a 
writer  in   1868,'  "has  tended  to  excite  their  bitter 

»  Lcwin's  "Life  and  Epistles  of  St.  Paul"  (1875),  i.,  p.  69, 
where  a  view  of  Damascus,  looking  south-east,  is  given,  taken 
from  a  photograph. 

*  Art.  "Damascus"  in  McCulloch's  "Geographical  Dic- 
tionary." 

=»  In  the  "Cyclopaedia  of  Biblical  Literature,"  by  McClin- 
tock  and  Strong,  New  York,  186S,  vol.  i.     A  striking  account 


DAMASCUJ^.  5 

enmity.  In  July,  i860,  taking  advantage  of  the  w;.r 
between  the  Druses  and  Maronites,  and  encouraged 
also  by  the  Turkish  authorities,  they  suddenly  rose 
against  the  poor  defenceless  Christians,  massacred 
about  six  thousand  of  them  in  cold  blood,  and  left 
their  whole  ijuarter  in  ashes."'  ''Such  is  the  last  act," 
he  adds,  "in  the  history  of  Damascus."  Though 
still  the  largest  city  of  Asiatic  Turkey,  with  a  popula- 
tion in  1859  of  150,000,  the  prosperity  of  Damascus 
is  on  the  wane.  The  opening  of  the  Suez  Canal  in 
1S70  dealt  it  a  heavy  blow,  by  diverting  much  of  the 
traffic  that  had  hitherto  passed  through  it  by  cara- 
vans. It  is  a  somewhat  strange  retribution  that  the 
opening  of  a  new  water-way  should  thus  undo  the 
])rosperity  that  Damascus  has  so  long  owed  to  its 
own  fertilising  streams. 

For  it  is  not  too  much  to  say  that  to  its  streams 
of  water  this  ancient  city  has  owed.,  nut  only  its 
|<rosperity,  but  its  very  existence.  "Arenot  Abana 
and  Pharpar,  rivers  of  Damascus,  better  than  all  the 
waters  of  Israel?"  was  a  (question  that  Naaman 
might  well  ask,  as  he  turned  indignantly  from  the 
prophet's  door.  Travellers  have  vied  with  one  an- 
other in  describing  the  unrivalled  beauty  of  those 
streams.  "  The  juice  of  her  life,"  says  one  well- 
known  writer,^  "  is  the  gushing  and  ice-cold  torrent 
that  tumbles  from  the  snowy  sides  of  Anti-Lebanon. 
Close  along  on  the  river's  edge,  through  seven  sweet 

of   the   dreadful   scenes   of    1S60   will    be   fouml    in    Fran9ois 
Lenormanl's    "Ilisloiro    des    Massacres   dc    Syric   en     i860." 
I'aris,  1861.     The  French  religious  houses  especially  suffered. 
'  .Serjeant  Kinglake  :  "Eothcn,  "  1K54,  p.  257. 


6  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

miles  of  rustling  boughs  and  deepest  shade,  the  city- 
spreads  out  her  whole  length,  as  a  man  falls  flat, 
face-forward  on  the  brook,  that  he  may  drink  and 
drink  again  :  so  Damascus,  thirsting  for  ever,  lies 
down  with  her  lips  to  the  stream,  and  clings  to  its 
rushing  waters."  Standing,  as  it  does,  at  the  western 
extremity  of  the  great  desert  plain  of  El-Hauran, 
which  stretches  away  right  to  the  Euphrates,  no  city 
of  any  size  could  have  existed  here,  unfed  by  such 
living  waters.  "Without  the  Barada"  (the  ancient 
Abana),  says  Porter,^  "  the  plain  would  be  a  parched 
desert;  but  now  aqueducts  intersect  every  quarter, 
and  fountains  sparkle  out  in  almost  every  dwelling, 
while  innumerable  canals  extend  their  ramifications 
over  the  vast  plain,  clothing  it  with  verdure  and 
beauty." 

To  what  a  degree  the  city  and  its  surrounding 
orchards  literally  drink  in  the  waters  of  its  two 
streams,  may  be  gathered  from  the  fact  that  after 
they  have  escaped  from  its  suburbs  they  flow  with 
greatly-diminished  volume  to  a  lake,  or  cluster  of  three 
small  lakes,  a  few  miles  east  of  Damascus,  and  there 

^  "  Five  Years  in  Damascus,"  1855,  i-j  P-  ^7.  As  a  remark- 
able instance  of  the  extent  to  which  travellers  may  differ  in 
their  estimate  of  the  same  scenery,  it  may  be  noted  that  while 
Dr.  Robinson,  "  Bibhcal  Researches"  (ii.  481),  thought  the 
view  inferior  to  that  from  the  northern  heights  of  London, 
Porter  considers  that  the  ' '  view  that  presents  itself  to  the  eye 
of  the  traveller  as  he  surmounts  the  last  ridge  of  Antilibanus, 
after  passing  the  bleak  and  barren  slopes  beyond,  is  rich  and 
grand,  almost  surpassing  conception."  But  we  are  all  familiar 
with  the  way  in  which  our  impressions  of  a  spot  are  modified 
by  our  previous  expectations. 


DAMASCUS:.  7 

lose  themselves,  there  being  no  outflow  from  the  banks.  ^ 
The  Barada  is  the  principal  stream,  and  brings  down  a 
considerable  body  of  water.  The  'Awaj,  or  Phege, 
the  ancient  Pharpar,  is  a  less  important  river,  but 
better  for  drinking  purposes,  for  which  it  is  chiefly 
employed  by  the  inhabitants.  The  use  of  the  water 
of  the  Barada  is  observed  to  be  often  attended  by 
goUre.  At  the  edge  of  a  plain  thus  fertilised,  some 
sixty  miles  from  the  sea  at  Beirut,  with  the  snow- 
capped summits  of  Anti-Libanus  looking  down  upon 
it  to  the  north  and  west,  and  its  white  dwellings 
embosomed  in  green  foliage,  stretching  away  towards 
the  south  and  east,  stands  this  most  ancient  of  cities. 
The  dirt  and  disorder  of  its  streets,  when  one 
passes  within  the  walls,  in  strange  and  unwelcome 
contrast  to  the  beauty  of  the  gardens  without,  seem 
a  token  of  the  misgovernment  of  its  present  rulers. 
Around  it  is  nature's  paradise ;  man's  wilderness  is 
within.  Such  as  it  is  now  in  its  better  aspect,  it  was 
twelve  hundred  years  ago.  And  it  must  make  us 
think  more  highly  of  the  devotion  of  John  Damas- 
cene, that  he  could  forsake,  not  only  the  glittering 
prospects  of  wordly  ambition,  but  this  fairest  of 
earth's  fair  cities,  for  the  dreary  solitude  of  his  cell 
by  the  Dead  Sea. 

'  It  was  in  the  little  village  of  ILiran,  near  the  soutli-wcst 
comer  of  this  lake  Ateibeh,  that  the  late  Dr.  lieke  thought  he 
tiad  discovered  the  true  Ilaran  to  which  Abraham  migrated 
from  Ur  of  the  Chaklccs.  See  his  interesting  work,  "Jacob's 
Flight."     But  Lewin  argues  at  length  against  this  opinion. 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


CHAPTER    11. 

THE    MONASTERY    OF   ST.    SABAS. 

On  the  south  side  of  the  JVady  en-Nar,  or  Valley 
of  Fire,  the  name  given  to  the  lower  part  of  the 
Kidron  Valley  where  it  approaches  the  Dead  Sea, 
stands  the  IMar  Saba,  or  monastery  of  St.  Sabas. 
The  same  circumstance  causes  the  gorge,  a  little 
higher  up,  to  bear  the  name  of  Wady  er-Rahib^  or 
Monks'  Valley.  The  savage  wildness  of  the  scene, 
and  the  sense  of  utter  desolation  around,  have 
always  left  a  deep  impression  on  the  minds  ot 
travellers.  To  the  east  rise  the  precipices,  800  feet 
high,  behind  which  the  blue  and  glossy  waters  of  the 
Dead  Sea  lie  glaring  in  the  sun.  To  the  north-west 
the  dry  torrent-bed  of  the  Kidron  leads  up  to 
Jerusalem,  here  some  ten  miles  distant.  The  build- 
ings themselves  appear  to  hang  like  an  eagle's  nest 
on  to  the  precipitous  face  of  the  rocks.  "  Two  high 
towers,"  says  a  recent  traveller,^  "  first  meet  the 
eye ;  but  on  approaching  nearer  one  is  bewildered 
with  the  pile  of  massive  walls,  domes,  battlements, 
staircases,  and  five  splendid  buttresses  supporting  the 
building  on  the  edge  of  the  precipice  from  the  giddy 

'  "  Egyptian  Sepulchres  and  Syrian  Shrines,"  by  Emily  A. 
Beaufort,  1861,  ii.,  p.  126.  A  view  of  the  monastery  is  given 
in  Game's  *'  Syria  and  the  Holy  Land,"  ii.,  p.  86. 


THE    MONASTERY    OF    ST.   SAliAS.  9 

depths  below."  One  uniform  hue  of  tawny  yellow 
pervades  alike  the  walls  of  the  convent  and  the 
weather-worn  clifls  to  which  they  cling  ;  and  though, 
in  the  opinion  of  one  writer,  "  the  wild  grandeur  of 
its  situation  renders  this  monastery  the  most  extra- 
ordinary building  in  Palestine,"  the  general  impres- 
sion drawn  from  the  view  of  it  seems  to  be  that  of 
utter  dreariness.  But  perhaps  no  better  descrip- 
tion can  be  given  than  in  the  words  of  one  of  the 
latest  visitors  ^  to  it.  After  speaking  of  the  terrible 
heat  that  prevailed,  unrelieved  by  a  blade  of  grass  or 
a  breath  of  wind,  the  writer  continues  : — "  the  silence 
of  the  desert  surrounds  it,  and  only  the  shrill  note  of 
the  golden  grackle,  or  the  howl  of  a  jackal,  breaks 
this  solemn  stillness.  Not  a  tree  or  shrub  is  in  sight ; 
walls  of  white  chalk  and  sharp  ridges  shut  out  the 
western  breeze,  and  the  sigh  of  the  wind  in  the  trees 
is  a  sound  never  heard  in  the  solitude.  The  place 
seems  dead.  The  convent  and  its  valley  have  a 
fossilised  appearance.  Scarcely  less  dead  and  fossil 
are  its  wretched  inmates,  monks  exiled  for  crimes  or 
heresy,  and  placed  in  charge  of  a  few  poor  lunatics. 
Ladies  are  not  admitted  into  the  monastery,^  but  we 
were  provided  with  a  letter  to  the  Superior.  A  little 
iron  door  in  a  high  yellow  wall  gives  admission  from 

'  Conder  :   "Tent  Work  in  Palestine,"  1878,  i.,  p.  302. 

'  What  Miss  Beaufort,  writing  in  1861,  deservedly  calls  a 
"vulgar  trick,"  had  been  lately  played  upon  the  monks  by 
an  enterprising  lady  traveller,  who  "entered  the  monastery  in 
men's  clothes,  concealing  her  hands  in  her  pockets  while  going 
over  the  whole  building  ;  but  whilst  taking  coft'ec  her  sex  was 
discovered,  and  she  was  immediately  expelled  by  the  justly- 
oft'ended  monks." 


lO  ST.    JOHN   OF   DAMASCUS. 

the  west ;  thence  a  long  staircase  leads  down  into 
a  court  before  the  chapel.  The  walls  within  are 
covered  with  frescoes,  some  old,  some  belonging  to 
the  time  when  the  monastery  was  rebuilt,  in  1840, 
by  the  Russian  Government.  Greek  saints,  hideous 
figures  in  black  and  grey  dresses,  with  stoles  on 
which  the  cross  and  ladder  and  spear  are  painted  in 
white,  stand  out  from  gilded  backgrounds.  Against 
these  ghosts  of  their  predecessors  the  monks  were 
ranged  in  wooden  stalls  or  miserere  benches  with 
high  arms,  which  supported  their  weary  figures  under 
the  armpits.  The  old  men  stood,  or  rather  drooped, 
in  their  places,  with  pale,  sad  faces,  which  spoke  of 
ignorance  and  of  hopelessness,  and  sometimes  of 
vice  and  brutality;  for  the  Greek  monk  is  perhaps 
the  most  degraded  representative  of  Christianity,  and 
these  were  the  worst  of  their  kind.  Robed  in  long 
sweeping  gowns,  with  the  cylindrical  black  felt  cap'on 
their  heads,  they  looked  more  like  dead  bodies  than 
living  men,  propped  up  against  the  quaint  Byzantine 
background.  .  .  .  The  floor  of  the  church  was  unoc- 
cupied, and  paved  with  marble ;  the  transept  was 
closed  by  the  great  screen,  blazing  with  gold,  and 
covered  with  dragons  and  arabesques  and  gaudy 
pictures  of  saints  and  angels  on  wood.  A  smell  of 
incense  filled  the  church,  and  the  nasal  drawl  of  the 
officiating  priest  soon  drove  us  away  to  the  outer  air. 
....  The  convent  pets  came  about  us,  the  beau- 
tiful black  birds  with  orange  wings,  which  live  only  in 
the  Jordan  Valley,  and  have  been  named  '  Tristram's 
grackle,'  after  that  well-known  explorer.  They  have 
a  beautiful  clear  note,  the  only  pleasant  sound  ever 


THE    MOXASTF.RV   OF    ST.    SABAS.  II 

heard  in  the  solitude ;  and  the  monks  have  tamed 
them,  so  that  they  flock  round  them  to  catch  raisins, 
which  they  pounce  ui)on  in  mid  air.  In  tlie  valley 
below  the  foxes  and  jackals  also  come  for  alms,  the 

monks  throwing  down  loaves  for  them.^ Yet 

even  for  these  poor  outcasts  in  the  stony  wilderness, 
lifeless  and  treeless  though  it  be,  nature  prepares 
every  day  a  glorious  picture,  quickly  fading  but 
matchless  in  brilliance  of  colour :  the  distant  ranges 
seem  stained  with  purple  and  pink  ;  in  autumn  the 
great  bands  of  clouds  sweep  over  the  mountains  with 
long  bars  of  gleaming  light  between  them  ;  and  for  a 
few  minutes,  as  the  sun  sets,  the  deep  crimson  blush 
comes  over  the  rocks,  and  glorifies  the  whole  land- 
scape with  an  indescribable  glow." 

Upon  the  scene  thus  strikingly  described,  the  eyes 
of  John  of  Damascus,  the  monk  of  St.  Sabas'  Convent, 
whose  life  we  are  attempting  to  relate,  must  often 
have  rested.  He  must  often  have  felt  how,  in  the 
ascent  one  way  up  the  valley  to  Jerusalem,  and  the 
descent  by  "  horrible  abysses  "  to  the  Dead  Sea  in 
the  other  direction,  there  was,  as  a  Greek  pilgrim  -  in 

•  Nor  are  these  the  only  hungry  claimants  to  be  satisfied. 
"  A  monk  every  day  looks  from  this  watch-tower" — a  narrow 
wooden  tower,  ascended  by  a  flight  of  steps  from  the  convent 
roof—"  for  many  hours,  far  and  near,  to  give  notice  of  the 
approach  of  any  of  the  wild  Arabs,  who  come  to  the  foot  of 
the  walls  with  loud  menaces.  A  large  quantity  of  cakes  of 
bread  is  kept  in  the  tower,  and  they  arc  thrown  out  to  the 
Arabs,  who  are  thus  pacified,  and  take  themselves  ofi." — 
Came,  ubi.  sup.^  p.  87. 

'  "Voices  from  the  Kast,"  translated  and  edited  by  the  Rev, 
J.  M.  Ncale,  1859,  p.  155. 


12  ST.    JOHN    UF    DAMASCUS. 

recent  times  expressed  it,  "the  image  of  our  life."  It 
was  here  that  St.  Sabas,  nearly  two  centuries  before, 
had  fixed  his  dwelling ;  a  famous  anchorite  of  Cappa- 
docian  origin,  whose  character  for  sanctity  stood  so 
high,  that  when,  about  the  year  483,  he  made  a 
journey  to  Constantinople  to  intercede  with  the 
Emperor  for  the  anchorites  of  Jerusalem,  Justinian 
went  outside  the  city  to  meet  him,  and  fell  on  his 
knees  before  him.  Round  the  cave  chosen  by  Sabas 
for  his  cell  in  this  lonely  wilderness,  a  cave  from  which 
tradition  says  that  he  had  first  to  eject  the  previous  oc- 
cupant, a  lion,  other  hermits  quickly  settled,  and  thus 
was  formed  the  Laura  ^  of  St.  Sabas.  The  founder  is 
said  to  have  survived  to  the  age  of  94  years,  dying  in 
532  ;  and  his  tomb,  "  gilded  and  adorned  in  the  usual 
tawdry  manner  of  the  Greeks,"  is  still  shown  under  a 
dome,  in  the  middle  of  a  small  paved  court  in  the 
monastery.^  Here  lived  those  three  hermits  of  the 
sixth  century,  Xenophon,  and  his  sons  Arcadius  and 
John,  who  "  every  day  saluted  each  other  from  the 
threshold  of  their  caves,  not  being  able  to  speak 
because  of  the  distance."  ^  And  here,  in  due  time, 
came  John  Damascene  and  his  foster-brother  Cosmas. 
But  before  we  speak  of  the  events  which  led  him  to 
take  this  step,  and  to  exchange   Damascus  with  its 

'  "The  societies  of  the  Anachorets,  who  lived  in  a  certain 
union  with  each  other  in  single  cells,  were  called  laurcB ;  a 
term  which,  derived  from  the  ancient  Greek  adjective  lattros, 
denoted  properly  a  large  open  place,  a  street." — Neander's 
"Church  History,''  Bohn's  edn.,  iv,,  p.  334. 

'  Came,  ubi.  sup.y  p.  87. 

^  "  Voices  from  the  East,"  p.  156. 


THE    MONASTKRV    OK    ST.    SABAS.  1 3 

rushing  waters  for  the  awful  solitudes  of  the  Valley 
of  Fire,  a  few  words  seem  needful  on  the  state  of 
society  at  the  time,  and  the  form  of  government 
under  which  his  native  city  had  then  passed. 


14  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


CHAPTER   III. 

THE    MAHOMETAN    RULE    IN    SYRIA. 

It  has  been  often  remarked  that  the  fire  of  Maho- 
metanism  was  long  in  kindling,  but,  when  once  alight, 
it  spread  a  conflagration  around  with  unexampled 
rapidity.  The  Prophet  himself  had  reached  the  age 
of  forty  before  he  announced  his  mission.  For  eleven 
years  more,  from  6ii  till  his  flight  from  Mecca  in  622, 
he  appeared  to  make  little  or  no  way  with  his  fellow- 
tribesmen,  the  Kuraish  ;  to  be  dashing  himself  vainly 
against  a  rock ;  to  be  growing  old,  with  the  bitter 
consciousness  of  failure.  His  abandoning  Mecca 
was  itself  an  acknowledgment  of  defeat.  And  yet,  as 
the  event  showed,  it  was  a  step  towards  victory. 
'*  The  germs  of  future  success,"  says  a  military  critic,^ 
"  had  been  planted  in  the  midst  of  seeming  discom- 
fiture. He  departed,  carrying  away  with  him  the  flower 
of  the  Kuraish.  Abou  Bakr,  Omar,  Ali,  Talha, 
Zobair,  and  the  other  'companions  of  Muhammad,' 
left  none  equal  to  themselves,  when  they  shook  the 
dust  of  their  ancestral  city  from  off  the  soles  of  their 
feet.  .  .  .  The  seventy  men  who  followed  the 
Prophet  to  Medina,  not  merely  drew  away  the  heart's 
blood  from  the  Kuraish — they  planted  in  the  city 
which   gave   them   shelter  an   imperium  in  imperio^ 

'  Major  Osborn  :  "  Islam  Under  the  Arabs,"  1876,  p.  21. 


THE    MAHOMETAN    RULE    IN    SYRIA.  1 5 

bound  together  by  the  strongest  of  all  ties,  the  sense 
of  a  Divine  calling."  The  same  preparedness  of  the 
soil  to  receive  the  seed,  which  made  the  teaching  of 
Mahomet  take  root  and  germinate  so  quickly  at 
Medina,  was  the  cause  also  of  the  rapid  spread  of 
Mahometan  conquests  soon  aftenvards.  At  Yathrib, 
better  known  thenceforward  as  Medina,'  "  the  City," 
the  feuds  of  the  Arabs  and  the  Jews — and,  when  the 
latter  were  subdued,  the  internecine  feuds  of  the 
Arab  tribes  of  Aus  and  Khazraj — had  ended  in  a 
general  feeling  of  insecurity  and  weariness  of  war, 
such  as  makes  men  cast  about  for  a  strong  ruler  to 
govern  them.  They  were,  in  fact,  on  the  point  of  so 
choosing  Abdallah,  son  of  Obay,  when  the  arrival  of 
Mahomet  seemed  to  furnish  them  with  the  very 
leader  whom  they  sought.- 

In  like  manner,  when  the  armies  of  Islam  began 
to  invade  the  adjoining  countries,  Egypt  on  the  west 
and  Syria  on  the  north,  their  success  might  seem  at 
first  out  of  all  proportion  to  the  means  employed,  or 
to  the  time  consumed.  But  the  conflagration  spread 
rapidly  because  the  trees  were  dry.  Just  as  the 
citizens  of  Yathrib  had  been  weakened  by  their  long- 
continued  blood  feuds,  so  the  inhabitants  of  Syria 
and  Egypt  were  in  a  state  of  religious,  as  well  as  civil, 
disunion  and  weakness.  The  majority  in  both  those 
countries  were  Nestorians  or  Monophysites,  "  de- 
pressed by  the  imperial  laws,  and  ready  to  welcome 

^  More  properly  Mcditut-al-Nabi^  "City  of  the  Prophet."— 
Robertson'-)  "  Hist,  of  the  Christian  Church,"  ii.,  p.  39,  n. 
'  Osborn,  /////.  sup.,  p.  42. 


1 6  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

the  enemies  of  the  Byzantine  Court  as  deliverers."^ 
The  whole  head  is  sick,  and  the  wJiole  heart  faint : 
such  might  ahnost  be  the  language  applied  to  Chris- 
tendom at  this  time.  The  Emperor  Heraclius,  but 
lately  the  conqueror  of  Chosroes,  the  deliverer  from 
the  Persian  yoke  of  Syria  and  Egypt,  was  wasting 
away  through  sickness,  and  constrained  to  look  on 
and  see  these  provinces  again  lost  to  the  empire. 
Among  his  subjects  there  was  the  spectacle  of  "sect 
opposed  to  sect,  clergy  wrangling  with  clergy,  upon 
the  most  abstruse  and  metaphysical  points  of 
doctrine." 

Beyond  this,  there  was  all  the  advantage,  on  one 
side,  of  the  enthusiasm  which  novelty  alone  will  some- 
times inspire.  The  religion  of  Mahomet  was  a  new 
thing  upon  the  earth.  And  there  was  the  far  more 
potent  and  enduring  enthusiasm  which  is  born  of 
conviction — the  decision  of  action  arising  from  fresh 
and  sharply-cut  impressions.  The  soldier  who  "  saw 
hell  with  its  fires  blazing  behind  him  if  he  fled,  para- 
dise opening  before  him  if  he  fell,"^  would  be  hard  to 
beat.  And  indeed  it  was  not  till  Christendom  had 
learnt  this  lesson,  and  the  counter-enthusiasm  of  the 
Crusades  was  aroused,  that  the  tide  of  Mahometan 
conquest  was  seriously  checked. 

What  has  been  said  may  lessen  the  surprise  that 
any  reader  might  feel  at  observing,  for  the  first  time, 
the  suddenness  of  the  growth  of  Islam.  Within 
thirteen  years  from  the  Hegira,  within  three  years 

'  Robertson,  p.  41.  See  also  Milman,  "Latin  Christianity," 
1854,  ii.,  p.  46. 

-  Milman,  ib.,  p.  38. 


THE    MAHOMETAN    Rl  i  !■     IN    SYRIA.  I  7 

from  Mahomet's  death,  the  ariiiies  of  the  new  faith 
had  appeared  before  Damascus. 

'I'he  story  of  the  siege  and  caj)ture  of  this  ancici.L 
and  splendid  tity,  "  the  Granada  of  the  East,"  has 
been  often  told,^  and  only  the  barest  outlines  of  it 
need  be  retraced  here.  Elated  by  the  conquest  of 
Bosra,  four  days'  march  from  Damascus,  the  Saracens, 
in  634,  pressed  on  to  attack  this  latter  city.  After 
single  combats  and  deeds  of  individual  heroism, 
which  made  Voltaire  draw  a  parallel  between  this  and 
the  siege  of  Troy,  the  garrison  were  finally  shut  up 
within  the  walls.  More  than  one  reinforcement,  sent 
to  their  aid  by  Heraclius,  was  defeated.  Werdan," 
the  imperial  general,  who  was  despatched  with  an 
army  of  seventy  thousand  men,  was  slain,  and  more 
than  two-thirds  of  his  force  perished  with  him.  Then, 
in  their  despair,  Thomas,  the  Governor  of  Damascus, 
tried  the  power  of  religious  enthusiasm  to  rival  that 
which  nerved  the  besiegers  to  such  efforts.  "  At  the 
principal  gate,  in  the  sight  of  both  armies,  a  lofty 
crucifix  was  erected  ;  the  bishoj),  with  his  clergy, 
accompanied  the  march,  and  laid  the  volume  of  the 
New  Testament  before  the  image  of  Jesus ;  and  the 

'  The  work  ascribed  to  El-Wakidy,  from  which  Ockley 
drew  his  picturesque  account,  is  now  regarded  by  competent 
scholars  as  only  an  historical  novel,  written  in  the  time  of  the 
Crusades.  Wakidy's  real  work  is  lost.  Gibbon  (ch.  li.) 
follows  this  account  in  its  main  particulars. — See  Porter's  "Five 
Years  in  Damascus"  (1855),  i.,  p.  lio. 

'  Gibbon,  observing  how  unlike  a  Greek  name  this  is,  suggests 
that  it  may  be  an  anagram  for  An Jmvy  caused  by  the  Arabian 
scribe  writing  backwards.      I'.ut  surely  this  would  be  to  import 
the  English  letter  w  into  the  Greek  AiiJicas. 
C 


1 8  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

contending  parties  were  scandalised  or  edified  by  a 
prayer  that  the  Son  of  God  would  defend  His  servants, 
and  vindicate  His  truth."!  All  was  in  vain.  The 
impetuous  Kaled,  "the  sword  of  God,"  repulsed  a 
night  attack  in  which  the  Christians  had  put  forth 
their  last  energies ;  and  as  he  forced  an  entrance  at 
the  eastern  gate,  Abu  Obeidah  entered,  by  capitula- 
tion, at  the  western.  The  story  that  Kaled,  and  his 
more  temperate  colleague — the  one  bent  on  sacking 
the  conquered  city,  the  other  prepared  to  deal  merci- 
fully with  it — met  in  the  great  church  of  St.  John  the 
Baptist  is  now  discredited.^  But  there  is  no  doubt 
that  from  this  point  the  partition  of  Damascus  began; 
the  share  of  the  Arabian  conquerors  gradually  extend- 
ing, at  the  expense  of  their  Christian  subjects.  The 
metropolitan  church  itself,  the  venerable  structure 
that  had  been  restored  more  than  two  centuries 
before  by  Arcadius,  and  whose  bishop  had  counted 
fifteen  dioceses  under  his  sway,  was  divided  for  a 
time  between  the  victors  and  the  vanquished.  The 
former  took  the  eastern  end ;  the  latter  had  left  to 
them  the  western,  an  emblem  of  their  setting  glories. 
Little  more  than  seventy  years  after,  Walid  I.,  the 
sixth  caliph  of  the  Omeiyades,  revoked  even  this 
concession,  and  extorted  from  the  Christians  the 
share  they  had  been  permitted  to  retain  in  the  church. 
Originally  a  heathen  temple,  it  passed  once  more  to 
a  worship  other  than  Christian.  It  is  now  the  Mosque 
of  the  Omeiyades,  and  near  it  is  the  tomb  of  the 
great  Saladin.     The  fate  of  the  cathedral  church  is  a 

*   "  Decline  and  P'all,"  ch.  li. 

^  Porter  "Five  Years  in  Damascus,"  p.  72. 


THK    MAHOMETAN    RULE    IN    SYRIA.  1 9 

4 

type  of  that  of  the  city.  Originally  shared  between 
the  contending  parties,  the  followers  of  Islam  soon 
gained  the  predominance.  In  66 1,  Moawiyah,  from 
whom  the  dynasty  of  the  Omeiyades  took  its  name, 
made  Damascus  the  seat  of  his  government,  and  lies 
buried  in  the  "  Cemetery  of  the  Little  Gate."  Near 
him  are  laid  three  of  Mahomet's  wives,  and  his  grand- 
daughter, Fatimeh  ;  and  along  with  them  the  Arabic 
historian,  Ibn  Asaker,  from  whom  much  of  our  know- 
ledge of  these  events  is  derived.  ^ 

It  must  be  confessed  indeed  that  if  the  Arabs  took 
possession  of  Damascus,  they  showed  themselves  able 
to  appreciate  its  beauties ;  and  the  eulogies  of  their 
poets  and  romancers  have  compensated  for  the  little 
notice  taken  of  it  by  classical  writers.  The  Omeiyad 
caliphs  continued  to  reside  there  till  Mirwan  II.,  the 
last  of  the  dynasty,  was  defeated  and  slain,  in  750, 
after  the  disastrous  battle  on  the  Zab.  When,  like  a 
second  Alcibiades,  the  hunted  caliph  had  rushed  out 
from  the  little  building  by  the  Nile  in  which  he  had 
sought  a  temporary  shelter,  and  fallen,  sword  in  hand, 
before  the  lances  of  his  pursuers,  his  young  rival, 
Abul-Abbas,  removed  the  seat  of  empire  to  Bagdad, 
and  there  it  continued  for  the  next  500  years. 

Our  ignorance  of  the  exact  date  of  the  birth  of 
John  Damascene — a  subject  to  be  spoken  of  more 
fully  hereafter— leaves  it  doubtful  which  caliph  had 
the  most  influence  upon  the  fortunes  of  his  family. 
From  the  length  of  his  reign  (684-705),  Abd  al 
Malek  is  the  most  deserving  attention  :  mid  In  liiin. 

'   Tortcr,  "Five  Ve.irs  in  Damascus,"  i.,  1  .  45. 
C   2 


20  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

and  his  successor,  Walid  I.,  next  after  the  founder  of 
the  dynasty,  Omeiyah  himself,  we  must  look  for  what- 
ever elements  of  greatness  are  to  be  found  in  this 
race  of  sovereigns.  Passing  over  these,  we  find  little 
but  a  record  of  indolence  and  profligacy.  "  The 
first  Yezid,  Sulaiman,  the  second  Yezid  and  his  son 
Walid,  who  succeeded  the  Khalif  Hisham — these 
were  one  and  all  royal  rakes  of  that  thorough-going 
type  which  is  to  be  found  only  in  Oriental  countries. '"^ 
Hisham,  whose  reign  (724-743)  is  also  noticeable, 
from  the  period  of  John's  life  it  covers,  was  chiefly 
swayed  by  avarice.  That  he  kept  his  throne  so  long, 
was  due  in  measure  to  the  political  shrewdness,  or 
cunning,  which  taught  him  to  balance  the  two  great 
Arabian  factions  more  evenly  against  each  other, 
and  to  allow  a  due  preponderance  to  the  Yemenite 
tribe.  It  does  not  follow  that  the  lot  of  Christians 
under  such  rulers  was  harder  than  it  might  have  been 
under  the  rule  of  sincere  and  more  single-minded 
zealots  of  the  ^lahometan  faith.  A  Yezid,  who  before 
his  accession  had  scandalised  the  believers  by  his 
avowed  fondness  for  the  wine-flask,  and  for  falcons 
and  hounds  ;  a  Walid  II. ,  who  could  order  a  copy  of 
the  Koran  to  be  set  up  before  him  as  a  mark  for  his 
arrows,  having  taken  offence  at  some  verse  in  it 
which  smote  his  conscience,  and  then  pierce  it  with 
his  arrows,  exclaiming  the  while  : — - 

"You  threaten  ihe  man  proud  and  rebellious  ;  well,  that  man 
proud  and  rebellious  is  me. 

When  you  appear  before  your  INIaster  on  the  day  of  resurrec- 
tion, say  to  Him,  'Lord,  it  is  Walid  who  has  cut  me  into 
shreds.' " 

>  Osbotn,  tthi.  sup.,  p.  337.  *  Osborn,  p.  338. 


THE    MAHOMETAN    KLI.K    IN    SYRIA.  21 

sucli  men  might  be  capricious  and  lyraiir.ical  rulers, 
might  leave  their  soldiers  unpaid,  their  lands  untilled, 
their  subjects  the  prey  of  rapacious  officials — but 
Jews  or  Christians,  as  such,  were  not  likely  to  sufler 
so  much  comi»arativcly  as  under  masters  of  stricter 
orthodoxy.  In  later  times  indeed  Damascus  has  been 
notorious  for  the  intolerance  of  its  Mussulman  i)0i)u- 
iation.  But  under  the  free-thinking  caliphs  of  the 
house  of  Omeiyah,  Christians  were  often  found 
occupying  important  posts.  Intermarriages  were 
not  unknown.  The  mother  of  Khalid  ibn  Abdallah, 
whom  Hisham  had  appointed  governor  of  Irak,  was 
a  Christian.  Akhtal,  the  court  poet  of  Abd  al  Malek, 
who  was  led  in  a  robe  of  honour  through  the  streets 
of  Damascus,  with  a  herald  proclaiming :  "  Behold 
the  poet  of  the  Commander  of  the  Faithful !  the 
greatest  bard  among  the  Arabs  !  "  was  also  a  Christian. 
It  was  not  until  the  reign  of  the  same  caliph  that 
even  the  state  records  were  ordered  to  be  kept  in 
Arabic.  Before  that  time  the  records  of  Irak  had 
been  kept  in  Persian,  those  of  Syria  in  Greek.  The 
value  of  the  knowledge  derived  by  Western  Europe 
from  the  Saracens  has  been  often  overestimated. 
Most  of  the  learning  they  gained  was  in  fact  picked 
up  from  the  conquered  races.  The  Arabs  have 
rendered  a  lasting  service  to  mankind  by  acting  for 
a  time  as  the  depositories  of  science  ;  but  they 
could  not  originate.  They  could  but  transmit  what 
they  had  received.  "  Mere  Bedouins  of  the  desert," 
writes  Major  Osborn,^  "they  found  themselves  all  at 
once  the  masters  of  vast  countries  with  everything  to 

'  Osb  .11',  p.  9j. 


22  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

learn.  They  were  compelled  to  put  themselves  to 
school  under  the  very  people  they  had  vanquished. 
Thus  the  Persians  and  Syrians,  conquered  though 
they  were  and  tributary,  from  the  ignorance  of  their 
masters  retained  in  their  hands  the  control  of  the 
administrative  machinery."  We  may  thus  find  less 
difficulty  in  understanding  how  a  Joannes  Philoponus 
should  be  able  to  influence  the  conquering  Omar  at 
Alexandria,  or  the  father  of  John  of  Damascus  be  a 
high  officer  of  state  in  the  divan  of  Moawiyah. 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS.  23 


CHAPTER    IV. 


JOHN     MANSOUR. 


The  Life  of  St.  John  of  Damascus,  which  is  found 
prefixed  to  editions  of  his  collected  works,  though  the 
only  one  of  the  kind  we  possess,  is  in  many  respects 
an  unsatisfactory  one.  The  style  is  rhetorical  and 
turgid ;  there  is  little  precision  about  names  or 
dates  ;  whilst  one  at  least  of  the  events  related  so 
far  surpasses  belief,  as  to  make  Neander  and  others 
stigmatise  it  as  fabulous.  This,  however,  is  probably 
an  extreme  opinion.  The  author's  name  is  given  as 
John,  Patriarch  of  Jerusalem  ;  and,  as  there  were  more 
than  one  of  this  name  and  title,  we  are  left  in  some 
uncertainty  about  the  writer  himself.  Without  enter- 
ing into  details  of  criticism,  it  may  suffice  to  say  that 
he  is  considered  to  be  the  John,  Patriarch  of  Jeni- 
salem,  who  was  put  to  death  by  the  Saracens  in 
the  latter  part  of  the  reign  of  Nicephorus  Phocas 
(a.d.  963-969).  He  is  thus  removed  by  two  cen- 
turies from  the  subject  of  his  biography;  and  the 
reader  has  to  exercise  his  own  judgment  on  the 
amount  of  credence  to  be  given  to  the  rude  and  frag- 
mentary accounts  in  Arabic,  which  the  biographer 
professes  to  have  embodied  and  superseded.  Still, 
as  the  nearest  approach  to  a  contemporary  Life  that 


24  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

has  been  preserved  to  us,  an  abstract  of  it  shall  be 
given  here. 

The  writer  begins  by  remarking  that,  as  statues  are 
erected  to  perpetuate  the  memory  of  great  men,  so 
those  who  have  the  power  of  raising  a  lasting 
memorial  by  their  written  works  are  bound  to  take 
this  means  of  handing  down  to  posterity  the  names  of 
those  who  deserve  such  honour.  Who  could  deserve 
such  a  memorial  better  than  the  saint  called  from  his 
native  city  Damascenus  ?  For  he  was  no  mean  star 
in  the  ecclesiastical  firmament,  shining  with  steady 
ray  in  the  dark  night  of  heresy,  what  time  the  tyrant, 
"leonine  in  name  and  leonine  in  disposition"  (for  so, 
after  his  manner,  he  plays  on  the  name  of  the 
Emperor,  Leo  the  Isaurian),  was  fulfilling  the  pro- 
phetic words  of  Amos  :  "  The  lion  hath  roared,  who 
will  not  fear  ?  "  Such  a  champion  of  the  faith,  who 
fled  not  from  the  roaring  lion,  should  not  be  suffered 
to  have  his  record  only  in  rude  and  scattered  accounts, 
written  in  the  language  of  the  unbeliever.  He  was  a 
citizen  moreover  of  no  mean  city.  Damascus  was 
famed  for  its  beautiful  gardens,  famed  for  its  rushing 
streams.  Its  streets  had  been  trodden  by  St.  Paul, 
when  first  he  became  a  Christian.  It  had  given  birth 
to  many  a  noble  scion  (Damascius,  the  philosopher, 
Sophronius,  the  patriarch  of  Jerusalem,  and  others), 
but  to  none  more  worthy  than  John.  Like  fragrant 
flowers  in  the  midst  of  thorns,  such  had  been  his 
forefathers  amid  the  infidel  conquerors  of  Damascus. 
Like  Joseph  or  Daniel,  their  virtues  had  won  for  them 
the  respect  of  their  unbelieving  rulers.  They  had 
been  stewards  in  high  trust  even  among  the  Saracens. 


JOHN    MAN50UR.  2$ 

And  as  the  father  of  Juhn  Baptist  had  been  a  taithful 
senant  of  God,  so  the  father  '  of  this  second  John 
was  not  unworthy  of  such  a  son.  He  was  a  man  in 
high  station,  being  appointed  to  administer  the  pubhc 
affairs  through  the  whole  country.  He  had  in  con- 
sequence great  weahh.  But  all  his  riches  he  devoted, 
not  to  rioting  and  drunkenness,  but  to  the  good  work 
of  ransoming  Christian  captives,  and  enabling  them 
to  find  subsistence  in  the  land  to  which  they  had 
been  brought  as  slaves. 

When  a  son  had  been  born  to  him,  and  baptised 
at  the  risk  of  incurring  the  displeasure  of  the  ruling 
powers,  his  education  was  cared  for  as  beseemed  his 
birth.  As  John  grew  up  he  was  taught,  not  to  hunt, 
or  shoot  with  the  bow,  or  ride,  or  throw  the  spear,  but 
accomplishments  more  fitted  for  his  future  calling. 
To  this  end  there  was  nothing  so  much  longed  for 
by  his  father  as  a  good  tutor.  And  Providence  in 
due  time  brought  him  what  he  desired.     Among  the 

'  It  will  he  observed  that  the  writer  does  not  give  his  name. 
Assemanus  says  that  John's  father  was  named  Mansur,  and 
finds  fault  with  Pagi  for  making  Mansur  the  grandfather 
("  Hiblioth.  Orient.,"  ii.,  p.  97).  This  opinion  is  followed  by 
Dr.  Littledale,  in  a  note  to  the  "  Hymns  of  the  Eastern 
Church."  Assemanus  even  thinks  it  was  this  Mansur  who 
helped  to  betray  Damascus  to  the  Saracens  in  634.  liut  the 
dates  make  this  improbable,  as  the  birth  of  John  of  Damascus 
is  commonly  fixed  at  676,  and  in  all  probabiHty  was  later. 
Thcophanc-s  ("Chronographia,"  1863,  p.  841)  seems  to  imply 
that  Mansur  was  his  grandfather's  name  ;  and  Lequicn  con- 
cludes in  favour  of  Sergius  being  his  father,  who  is  spoken  of  by 
Theophaoes,  under  A.D.  691,  as  being  a  good  Chri-.tian,  and 
logothctc  to  the  Caliph  Abd  al  Malek,  by  whom  he  w.\s  highly 
esteemed. 


26  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

captives  one  day  brought  in  to  the  slave  market  at 
Damascus  was  an  Italian  ^  monk.  His  reverend  air 
and  bearing  made  even  his  fellow-prisoners  throw 
themselves  at  his  feet,  to  beg  a  blessing  in  their 
distress.  No  wonder  then  that  his  captors  were 
impressed.  The  father  of  John  was  standing  by,  a 
spectator  of  the  scene.  Moved  by  the  captive's  tears, 
he  drew  near  and  questioned  him.  His  name  was 
Cosmas,  a  simple  monk ;  he  feared  not  death  for  its 
own  sake,  but  for  the  loss  it  would  bring  of  all  the 
learning  he  had  painfully  acquired.  The  wisdom  of 
the  Stagirite,  the  philosophy  of  Plato — all  the  stores 
of  Grecian  learning  and  theology — were  as  an  in- 
heritance he  had  laboriously  won,  and  would  now  be 
lost  by  his  death  for  want  of  an  heir  to  succeed  to  it. 
Such  an  heir,  such  an  intellectual  son,  he  had  not  yet 
had  the  opportunity  of  finding.  Here,  it  was  evident, 
was  the  very  tutor  for  whom  the  father  had  so  long 
searched.    He  hastened  with  all  speed  to  the  Caliph,- 

^  The  conquest  of  Sicily  by  the  Saracens  (on  which  occasion 
they  might  easily  have  ravaged  the  adjacent  coast  of  Italy)  was 
not  till  the  year  827.  But  Lequien  inclines  to  place  this 
occurrence  about  the  year  699,  when  the  Arabs,  having  con- 
quered the  north  coast  of  Africa,  were  infesting  the  adjacent 
shores  of  the  Mediterranean.  He  quotes  indeed  a  statement  of 
Theophanes  to  show  that  part  of  Sicily  was  overrun,  and  its 
inhabitants  conveyed  to  Damascus,  as  early  as  the  twenty- 
second  year  of  Constans  II,  (a,d.  663),  but  this  seems  to  lack 
confirmation.  The  point  would  not  be  worth  discussion,  but 
for  the  light  it  might  throw,  if  cleared  up,  on  the  date  of  John 
Damascene's  birth. 

'  Here  again  the  writer  mentions  no  caliph's  name.  Abd  al 
Malek  {685-705),  or  his  successor  Walid  I.  (705-714),  are 
naturally  thought  of  as  the  most  likely. 


JOHN    MANSOUR.  2  J 

and  obtained  permission  to  set  Cosmas  at  liberty. 
This  done,  he  arranged  with  the  monk,  all  too  re- 
joiced at  such  a  task,  for  the  education  of  his  son, 
and,  along  with  him,  of  a  foster-brother  of  the  youth, 
also  named  Cosmas.  Under  the  instruction  of  their 
new  tutor,  the  young  men  made  wonderful  progress. 
In  the  science  of  numbers  they  vied  with  Pythagoras 
and  Diophantus.^  In  geometry  they  were  almost 
Euclids.  So  with  harmony,  astronomy,  and  the 
other  sciences.  Into  all  these,  and  into  the  queen  of 
all,  theology,  John  penetrated  with  an  intellectual 
vision  keen  as  the  glance  of  the  eagle  when  it  meets 
the  sun  ;  and  Cosmas  was  no  ill-matched  companion. 

But  the  time  came  when  their  tutor  had  imparted 
all  he  knew  to  the  young  students,  and  he  felt  that 
his  work  was  done.  Resigning  his  office  with  as 
much  regret  as  their  father  felt  at  accepting  his 
resignation,  he  asked  leave  to  retire  once  more  into  a 
convent,  and  chose  the  laura  of  St.  Sabas.  There  he 
spent  the  remainder  of  his  life. 

On  the  death  of  his  father,  John  ^^ansour  was 
sent  for  to  court,  and  raised  to  a  yet  higher  oftice  than 
his  father  had  occupied,  being  made  protosyviludus, 
or  chief  councillor.^     Meantime  the  great  controversy 

■  In  the  article  on  Diophanlus,  by  Professor  do  Morgan,  in 
"Smith's  Dictionary  of  Classical  Biography,"  this  is  referred 
to  as  probably  the  earliest  mention  of  Diophantus,  the  inventor 
of  Algebra.  Hut  it  is  there  assumed  that  the  writer  livcil  in 
the  eighth  century  ;  in  other  words,  that  he  was  John  IV.,  Pa- 
triarch of  Jenisalem  ;  but  this  patriarch  died  before  John  oi 
Damascus. 

'  It  seems   natural   to  render  this  vizir ;  but  according  to 


28  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

on  image-worship  broke  out.  The  Emperor  Leo  the 
Isaurian,  the  "  roaring  lion,"  had  issued  his  first  edict 
against  the  practice  (a.d.  726).  At  such  a  challenge 
the  privy-councillor  of  Damascus  could  not  remain 
silent.  He  girded  up  his  loins  to  the  contest  with  a 
zeal  like  that  of  Elias  in  the  days  of  Ahab.  To 
animate  the  orthodox  in  the  faith  to  resistance,  he 
sent  out  circular  letters,"^  to  be  passed  from  hand  to 
hand  among  the  Christians.  This  roused  the  anger 
of  the  emperor.  Unable  to  crush  his  opponent  by 
force,  as  being  a  subject  of  a  hostile  power,  he  has 
recourse  to  stratagem.  Having  succeeded  in  inter- 
cepting an  autograph  letter  of  John  of  Damascus,  he 
lays  it  before  some  of  his  scribes,  that  they  may 
familiarise  themselves  both  with  the  form  of  the 
characters  and  the  turn  of  expression.  He  then  bids 
them  concoct  a  letter,  in  imitation  of  John's  writing, 
purporting  to  be  addressed  to  himself,  in  which  John 
is  made  to  propose  a  treasonable  surrender  of 
Damascus,  if  the  emperor  would  send  a  force  thither. 
The  Saracen  guard  at  Damascus  (so  the  letter  ran) 
was  w^eak  and  negligently  kept,  and  if  Leo  would 
despatch  a  band  of  resolute  men  he  would  capture 
the  city  with  little  trouble.  The  writer  would  aid  in 
bringing  about  such  a  result.  This  forged  letter  was 
then  forwarded  to  the  caliph,  with  another  from  the 

Gibbon  (ch.  li.)  **  the  Ommiades  had  only  a  katel\  or  secretary, 
and  the  office  of  vizir  was  not  revived  or  instituted  till  the 
one  hundred  and  thirty-second  year  of  the  Ilegira"  {i.e.  A.D. 
754),  which  would  be  later  than  the  events  under  consideration. 
'  It  is  amusing  to  observe  under  what  a  cloud  of  words  the 
writer  wraps  up  this,  to  us,  simple  notion. 


JOHN    MANSOIK.  29 

einpcTor  himself.  Let  the  caliph  look  to  his  Cliris- 
tian  subjects,  when  such  were  the  proposals  they  were 
capable  of  making.  On  receipt  of  this,  John  was 
summoned  at  once  to  the  presence  of  the  Mahometan 
ruler,  and  the  letter  shown  him.  He  admitted  the 
similarity  of  the  writing,  but  indignantly  denied  the 
authorship  of  it.  His  denial,  and  his  appeal  for  a 
respite  in  which  to  prove  his  innocence,  were  alike 
vain.  The  sentence  was  given  that  his  offending 
right  hand  should  be  chopped  off.  This  was  done  ; 
and  that  same  hand — such  is  the  writer's  childish 
antithesis — which  was  lately  dipped  in  ink  in  defence 
of  the  truth,  was  now  dij^ped  in  blood.  AVhen  even- 
ing came,  the  pain  of  the  wound  being  intolerable, 
John  ventured  to  petition  the  caliph  for  the  restitu- 
tion of  the  amputated  member,  that  it  might  receive 
burial,  instead  of  bemg  left  hanging  u\)  in  the  market 
place.  Such  rites  of  interment  might  bring  him  the 
relief  they  did  to  Archytas.  The  desired  request  was 
granted,  and  the  hand  sent  back.  Then  John,  pros- 
trating himself  before  an  image  of  the  Virgin  in  his 
private  chapel,  poured  out  his  soul  in  supplication, 
praying  that  the  hand  which  he  placed  against  his 
mutilated  arm  might  grow  again  to  the  limb  from 
which  it  had  been  severed.  He  falls  asleep,  worn 
out  with  pain  and  weariness,  and  in  a  dream  beholds 
the  Holy  Virgin  signifying  that  his  prayer  is  heard. 
The  vision  comes  true.  On  starting  up  he  finds  his 
hand  to  be  indeed  restored  whole  as  the  other.  The 
news  of  this  miracle  soon  reaches  the  cars  of  the  caliph. 
John  is  again  summoned  to  his  presence,  and  strictly 
rjuestioncd.     His  enemies   try  in  vain  to  explain   it 


30  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

away ;  the  red  line  showing  where  the  knife  had  gone 
still  remains  visible,  and  no  earthly  physician  could 
have  wrought  such  a  work  of  healing.  The  caliph  is 
convinced,  and  would  fain  have  had  the  sufferer 
resume  his  former  office.  But  John  pleaded  so 
earnestly  for  relief  to  retire  from  public  affairs  that 
his  master  yielded ;  and  so,  having  disposed  of  all 
his  worldly  goods,  he  set  out,  accompanied  by  his 
old  companion  Cosmas,  for  the  convent  of  St.  Sabas. 
On  arriving  there  he  was  lovingly  received  by  the 
abbat ;  but,  for  a  while,  none  of  the  inmates  would 
undertake  the  task  of  training  so  distinguished  a 
novice.  At  last  an  aged  monk  was  found  willing. 
Taking  the  new-comer  with  him  to  his  cell,  he  taught 
him  the  first  principles  of  monastic  obedience  :  to  do 
nothing  of  his  own  private  will,  to  wTestle  with  God 
in  prayer,  to  let  his  tears  wash  out  the  stains  of  bygone 
sins.  Harder  perhaps  than  all  these,  for  one  of 
Damascenus'  habits,  was  the  injunction  to  write  to 
no  one,  to  keep  silence  even  from  good  words,  to 
remember  the  precept  of  the  heathen  Pythagoras. 
A  less  earnest  spirit  might  have  broken  down  under 
such  probation ;  but  John  was  not  one  to  flinch. 
The  seed  of  instruction  was  falUng,  in  this  case, 
neither  among  thorns  nor  on  the  rock,  but  into  good 
ground.  Yet  harder  trials  still  remained.  The  old 
monk  bade  him  load  his  shoulders  with  baskets,  of 
the  convent  make,  and  go  with  them  straight  to 
Damascus.  There  he  was  to  offer  them  for  sale  at 
double  their  value,  and  on  no  account  to  bate  a  jot 
of  his  price.  With  the  fondness  of  Oriental  nations 
for  driving  a  bargain,  this  fixedness  of  price  would 


JOHN    MANSOUK.  3I 

expose  the  vendor  to  abuse  and  ill-usage.  But, 
nothing  daunted,  the  once  Privy-Councillor  of 
Damascus  trudged  on  under  his  burden,  till  he 
reached  the  streets  of  his  old  city.  There  he  braved 
for  hours  the  jeers  and  ridicule  of  all  such  as  asked 
the  price  of  his  wares,  till  at  last  a  former  acquain- 
tance, recognising  him  in  his  squalid  disguise,  bought 
the  baskets  out  of  compassion,  and  the  novice  returned 
unvanquishcd  to  his  task-master.  On  another  occa- 
sion, the  brother  of  one  of  the  monks  who  had  died 
besought  John  to  indite  a  funeral  hymn,  as  some  con- 
solation to  his  feelings.  The  request  was  not  com- 
plied with  at  first,  from  a  fear  of  transgressing  the 
letter  of  his  superior's  command  ;  but  at  last,  yielding 
to  the  mourner's  importunity,  John  composed  the 
short  dirge  beginning : — 

"  A]l  human  things  are  vain, 

Nor  bide  with  us  through  death  ; 
No  wealth  may  cheer  tlie  traveller  there, 
Nor  honour's  empty  breath." 

When  the  old  monk,  who  was  John's  instructor, 
heard  the  sound  of  music  on  returning  to  his  cell,  as 
these  words  were  being  sung,  he  angrily  ujjbraided 
the  novice.  Was  this  the  way  for  him  to  keep  his 
promise  ?  these  the  sounds  which  should  come  from 
the  lips  of  one  mourning  for  his  sins  in  solitude  and 
gloom  ?  It  was  in  vain  that  his  disciple  pleaded  a 
cause  for  what  he  had  done,  and  implored  forgive- 
ness. He  was  expelled,  as  insubordinate,  from  his 
trainer's  cell.  On  this  the  other  monks  interceded  ; 
but   for   a   loner  time   the   elder  was  obdurate,   and 


32  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

would  listen  to  no  entreaties.  At  last  he  consented 
to  name  a  penance  as  the  condition  of  receiving  the 
offender  back;  but  one  so  humiliating,  involving 
a  menial  labour  so  base,  that  the  very  monks  them- 
selves stood  aghast.  John,  however,  had  no  scruples. 
He  had  felt  as  one  driven  from  Paradise,  and  no 
servile  labour  should  count  with  him,  if  only  he  might 
find  the  gate  of  entrance  open  again.  Thus  he  won 
the  admiration  even  of  his  severe  teacher. 

And  now  the  time  came  when  the  probation  might 
cease.  The  old  monk  was  warned  by  the  Virgin,  in  a 
dream,  to  check  no  longer  the  outpouring  of  a  spirit 
of  song  in  his  gifted  pupil.  The  hymns  of  John 
Damascene  were  to  be  a  joy  of  the  whole  Church, 
surpassing  even  the  Song  of  Moses  and  the  choral 
minstrelsy  of  Miriam.  His  exposition  of  the  Faith, 
his  refutation  of  heresies,  would  be  as  pillars  of 
support  on  which  the  Church  might  lean.  Thus 
admonished,  the  monk  calls  John  to  him,  and  bids  him 
give  free  course  to  the  inspiration  by  which  he  was 
moved.  Thus  set  free  at  last,  and  with  those  pursuits 
now  sanctioned  to  which  he  was  by  nature  inclined, 
John  gave  full  play  to  his  voice  and  to  his  pen.  Now 
were  composed  the  great  works  on  which  his  fame  as 
a  writer  will  rest — his  Fons  Scientice^  his  sermons,  his 
hymns.  In  all  of  these  he  had  a  friend  and  adviser 
in  his  old  companion,  the  younger  Cosmas,i  himself 

'  There  is  still  extant  a  number  of  hymns,  canons,  and  the 
like  bearing  the  name  of  Cosmas  ;  but  it  is  difficult  to  deter- 
mine which  of  them  belong  to  the  younger  one  of  the  name 
(made  bishop  of  Maiuma  about  A.D.  743),  and  which  to  the 
elder  Cosmas,  the  tutor.     According  to  Dr.   Neale,  "Hymns 


JOHN    MANSOUR.  33 

a  poet  and  composer  of  hymns,  till  his  promotion  to 
the  see  of  Maiuma,  near  Gaza,  in  Palestine,  removed 
him  from  the  convent.  Some  years  before,  if  the 
chronolog)'  can  be  reconciled,^  the  same  Patriarch  of 
Jerusalem  who  had  raised  Cosmas  to  the  bishopric, 
had  ordained  John  to  the  priesthood.  But  while 
thus  enabled  to  "  praise  God  in  the  seat  of  the 
presbyters"  (Ps.  cvii. '32),  he  did  not  forsake  the 
monastery  of  St.  Sabas.    And  considering  the  ''double 

of  the  Eastern  Church,"  third  ed.,  p.  63,  Cosmas  **  is  the 
most  learned  of  the  (ircek  Church  poels  ;  and  his  fondness  for 
tyi>es,  boldness  in  their  application,  and  love  of  aggrejjatinp; 
them,  make  him  the  oriental  Adam  of  S.  Victor.''  Several  of 
his  compositions  have  been  translated  by  Dr.  Neale,  of  which 
the  following  may  serve  as  a  specimen  : — 

"  Rod  of  the  Root  of  Jesse, 

Thou,  Flower  of  Mary  born, 
From  that  thick  shady  mountain 

Cam'st  glorious  forth  this  morn  : 
Of  her,  the  Ever  Virgin, 

Incarnate  wast  Thou  made. 
The  immaterial  Essence, 

The  Clod  by  all  obeyed  ! 
Glory,  Lord,  Thy  servants  pay 
To  Thy  wondrous  might  to-day  !  " 

The  reference  in  the  third  line  is  to  Ilabakkuk  ii.,  3. 

'  The  date  of  the  consecration  of  Cosmas  is  commonly  given 
as  about  a.d,  743  ;  that  being  the  year  in  which  Thcophanes 
places  the  mutilation  and  death  of  Tctcr,  metropolitan  of 
Damascu-.,  while  he  aiUls  that  "  at  the  same  time"  his  name- 
sake Peter  of  Maiuma  (Cosmas's  pre<lecessor)  glorified  Go<l  by 
a  voluntary  martyrdom.  On  the  other  hnn«l,  the  same  chro- 
nologcr  places  the  death  of  John  IV,,  Patriarch  of  Jerusalem 
'who  is  said  in  the  text  to  have  l>oth  promoted  Cosmas  and 
->rdaincd  Damascenus),  in  the  year  735. 
I) 


34  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

honour  "  of  which  St.  Paul  deems  the  elder  that  rules 
well  to  be  worthy  (i  Tiro,  v,  17),  to  mean  rather  a 
double  responsibility,  and  a  twofold  obligation  to 
keep  both  the  body  and  mind  under  discipline,  he 
set  himself  the  mental  labour  of  diligently  revising 
and  correcting  his  former  writings.  Wherever  there 
was  too  much  of  a  flowery  luxuriance  (says  this 
biographer,  who  is  a  noticeable  offender  in  the  same 
way),  he  would  use  the  pruning-hook,  and  reduce  his 
style  to  the  measure  of  a  due  sobriety.  Along  with 
this,  he  continued  his  labours  of  preaching  in  defence 
of  the  sacred  images,  earning  from  his  nephew 
Stephen,  when  he  too  came  to  glorify  God  like  his 
namesake,  the  first  martyr,  the  title  of  venerable  and 
ijispired}  Thus  occupied,  death  came  upon  him  ; 
and  he  of  whom  I  write,  says  his  biographer,  now 
sees  God  face  to  face.  This  humble  record  has 
been  written,  he  adds,  not  to  increase  his  glory, 
or  to  keep  his  memory  from  fading  (which  needs 
no  such  memorials  to  preserve  it),  but  rather  that 
he,  the  glorified  saint,  may  remember  me,  and  fill 

^  The  reference  to  this  martyr  is  introduced  somewhat 
abruptly  and  obscurely,  but  there  seems  no  doubt  who  is 
intended.  St.  Stephen,  called  the  Sabaite,  from  the  place  of  his 
prolonged  abode,  was  brought  (according  to  Leontius)  at  the  age 
of  ten  years  to  this  convent  by  his  uncle,  John  of  Damascus, 
and  died  there  in  A.D.  794,  after  a  residence  of  nearly  sixty 
years.  It  is  to  him  that  we  owe  what,  in  Dr.  Neale's  transla- 
tion, is  one  of  the  most  beautiful  of  modern  hymns  : — 

"  Art  thou  weary,  art  thou  languid, 

Art  thou  sore  distrest  ? 
'  Come  to  me,'  saith  One  ;  'and  coming, 
Be  at  rest.'" 


JOHN    MANSOUR.  35 

me  with  some  portion  of  his  beatitude.  "  Forgive 
me,  thrice-blessed  one,  and  be  my  fer\'ent  and  un- 
ceasing intercessor  with  God,  for  that  I,  thy  name- 
sake, out  of  my  strong  affection  for  thee,  essayed  to 
complete  the  work  which  another  had  begun ;  and 
with  the  materials  he  had  collected,  as  best  he  could, 
have  made  this  version  under  thy  auspices  from 
Arabic  into  Greek.  Make  mc,  too,  without  material 
alloy,  a  worshipper  of  the  Trinity  ;  make  me  to  be 
so  rapt  in  ecstasy  from  the  body,  even  while  a 
sojourner  in  it,  that  I  may  be  borne  far  hence  in  con- 
templation, a  burnt-offering  consumed  in  the  flame  of 
divine  love ;  that  so,  when  I  put  off  this  mortal 
vesture  in  tranquility,  I  may  with  confidence  appear 
before  thee  and  before  my  God.  To  whom  be  glory 
for  ever  and  ever.     Amen." 

With  such  words  does  this  Life  of  St.  John  of 
Damascus  end.  As  the  reader  will  have  perceived, 
there  is  a  want  of  defmiteness  and  precision  about  it 
which  makes  it  impossible  to  feel  much  confidence  in 
our  guide.  It  strikes  us  as  the  comi)osition  of  one 
who  had  very  scanty  materials  to  work  upon,  and 
who  tried  to  compensate  for  the  scarcity  of  facts  by 
rhetorical  enlargements,  and  superficial  conclusions 
from  the  writings  of  Damascenus  themselves.  On 
the  incident  which  has  chiefly  obtained  for  it  the 
epithets  of  "legendary"  and  "fabulous," — the  restora- 
tion of  the  dismembered  hand — such  opposite  judg- 
ments will  be  passed,  according  to  the  point  of  view 
of  the  reader,  that  it  is  of  no  use  trying  tu  smooth 
difficulties  or  suggest  any  way  of  compromise.  Such  a 
story  is  thoroughly  in  keeping  with  the  habits  of  thought 
D  2 


36  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

in  the  Greek  Church  at  the  time.  That  alone  need  not 
have  disquahfied  the  author  for  obtaining  credence, 
when  he  wrote  simply  of  the  ordinary  events  of  a 
man's  life.  Our  complaint  is  that,  instead  of  anything 
definite  and  tangible,  we  have  the  inflated  declamation 
of  one  who  seems  chiefly  concerned  to  extol  certain 
favourite  doctrines  of  the  Greek  Church.  For  it 
must  be  remembered  that  in  the  above  abstract  the 
outlines  only  have  been  given,  the  framework — so  far 
as  there  is  any — of  the  composition.  To  gain  any 
adequate  idea  of  the  style,  the  reader  must  suppose 
these  dry  bones  clothed  with  a  body  of  swelling 
verbiage.  Still,  as  it  is  the  only  biography  of  any 
pretensions  we  possess,  it  has  seemed  desirable  to 
present  such  a  summary  of  it  as  the  above.  It  will 
be  a  more  satisfactory  task  to  endeavour  to  fill  up 
some  portions  at  least  of  this  shadowy  outline  by  a 
study  of  Damascene's  extant  works.  But  before  pro- 
ceeding to  this  portion  of  our  subject,  it  may  clear 
the  way  a  little  to  survey  the  state  of  the  Greek 
Church  at  the  time,  and  in  particular  the  long  con- 
troversy about  image-worship,  in  which  John  of 
Damascus  played  so  conspicuous  a  part. 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS.  37 


(;hapti:r  \'. 

THE    GREEK    CHURCH    IN    THE    EKiHTH    CKNTLKV.' 

It  is  difficult  to  make  the  great  principles  understood 
which  were  at  work  in  the  Eastern  Church  in  the 
time  of  John  of  Damascus,  without  some  reference 
to  earlier  controversies.  To  trace  back  the  chain  of 
cause  and  effect  at  all  completely  would  indeed  be  an 
endless  task,  but  it  may  suffice  to  begin  with  the 
spread  of  the  doctrines  known  as  monophysite. 

As  Alexandria  had  been  the  centre  of  Neo-Pla- 
tonism,  it  was  natural  for  it  to  be  a  nursery  also  of 
monophysite  principles.  For  there  was  an  undoubted 
connection  between  the  two.  The  exaltation  of  the 
Divine  nature  and  being,  as  something  beyond  mea- 
sure transcending  all  human  expression,  or  human 
power  of  thought,  is  a  prominent  feature  in  the 
writings  of  the  so-called  Dionysius  the  Areopagite. 
So  also  is  the  exaltation  of  the  mystic,  contemplative 
mode  of  life,  as  the  only  way  of  attaining  in  any 
degree  to  the  godlike.  All  this  would  be  as  an  echo 
of  familiar  sounds  to  those  who  had  imbibed  the 
teaching  of  Plotinus.     For  that  philosopher  had  laid 

'  To  avoid  ihe  trouble  of  frequent  references,  it  may  be 
staled  at-  the  outset  tliat  the  authorities  for  this  chapter  arc 
chiefly  Gieseler's  "  Eccles.  Hist.,"  vol.  ii.,  and  Neandcr's 
"  Church  Hist.'*  (Bohn's  edn.)  vols,  iv,  and  v. 


38  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

down,  that  even  "  meditation  can  only  be  regarded  as 
the  way  to  truth,  without  being  ever  able  to  reach  it ; 
nay,  that  unconditioned  Being,  or  the  Godhead, 
cannot  be  grasped  by  thinking,  or  science,  but  only 
by  intuition."  Hence,  when  theologians,  reared  in 
such  an  atmosphere  of  thought,  approached  the  sub- 
ject of  the  Incarnation,  it  was  to  be  expected  that 
they  would  regard  it  more  or  less  exclusively  in 
one  particular  light.  And  so  it  came  to  pass.  "  The 
ineffable,  incomprehensible,  transcendent  union  of 
natures  :  " — such  was  the  language  in  which  they  pre- 
ferred to  speak  of  this  mystery.  The  supernatural 
side  of  it,  the  absolute  oneness  of  the  divine  and 
human  in  Christ,  was  that  which  had  the  most 
attraction  for  them.  They  carried  this  so  far  as  to 
transfer  the  terms  appropriate  to  the  divine  essence 
to  the  human  nature  in  Christ,  and  the  converse. 
Gradually,  such  expressions  as,  *'  God  has  suffered 
for  us,"  "  God  was  crucified  for  us,"  and,  above  all, 
"  Mary,  the  Theotokos,  or  Mother  of  God,"  became 
recognised  watchwords  of  the  party.  Cyril  of  Alex- 
andria, who  died  in  444,  may  be  taken  as  a  repre- 
sentative of  the  cause  in  its  earlier  stage.  The 
decrees  of  the  Council  of  Chalcedon,  summoned  by 
the  Emperor  Marcian  in  451,  served  only  to  exas- 
perate the  Monophysite  party,  who  considered  them 
too  indulgent  to  Nestorianism ;  and  scenes  of  vio- 
lence and  bloodshed  followed,  both  at  Alexandria 
and  Jerusalem,  and  in  the  capital  itself.  The  Ma- 
hometans, though  professedly  hostile  to  Christianity 
in  any  form,  were  naturally  more  inclined  to  be  in- 
dulgent towards  a  phase  of  it  which  appeared  some- 


THE  gri:i:k  church  in  thi-:  kighth  cknturv.  39 

what  more  akin  to  their  own  central  doctrine  of  the 
unity  of  the  Godhead ;  and  thus  an  additional  party, 
and  a  most  important  one,  was  brought  into  the 
strife. 

The  monothelcte^  controversy,  or  that  which  turned 
upon  a  single  luill  in  Christ,  was  an  afterswell  of  this 
storm.  It  arose  from  the  endeavours  to  carry  out 
the  monophysite  principles  to  their  logical  conclusion. 
If  in  man,  it  was  argued,  who  has  a  single  human 
nature,  though  consisting  of  soul  and  body,  there  is 
but  one  will,  which  we  may  call  the  human  will,  and 
one  eners^y,  or  active  exercise  of  that  will, — so  in  Christ, 
who  had  a  single  nature,  though  both  Cod  and  man, 
there  must  needs  be  in  like  manner  but  one  will  and 
one  energy  or  operation.  The  unrivalled  flexibility 
of  the  Greek  language,  and  the  ready  way  in  which 
it  lends  itself  to  the  formation  of  compound  words, 
while  it  undoubtedly  renders  discussion  easier,  may 
have  to  answer  for  some  of  the  confusion  of  thought 
in  which  the  combatants  were  often  involved.  When 
it  was  found  that  Dionysius  the  Areopagite  had  used 
the  term  thcandric\  to  express  the  working  of  Christ, 
so  convenient  a  word  was  gladly  borrowed  ;  and  it 
was  doubtless  felt  to  be  an  easier  task  to  maintain 
the  unity  of  Christ's  will,  or  operation,  when  a  term 
which  looked  single,  though  really  double,  had  been 
met  with  to  denote  it. 

The  subject  began  to  be  actively  debated  about 

'  The  term  tnonothelete  is  said  to  be  first  met  with  in  the 
writings  ef  St.  John  of  Damascus.  Of  course  the  subject, 
conveniently  summed  up  in  that  word,  had  been  debated 
earlier. 


40  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

the  same  time  that  Mahomet  entered  on  his  career. 
Sergius,  patriarch  of  Constantinople,  had  noticed,  in 
a  letter  ascribed  to  his  predecessor,  Mennas,  the  ex- 
pression, "one  will  and  one  life-giving  operation,' 
applied  to  the  Saviour.  Being  struck  with  it,  he 
consulted  Theodore,  Bishop  of  Pharan,  in  Arabia  ; 
a  "person,"  says  Robertson,^  "of  whom  nothing  is 
known  except  in  connection  with  this  controversy, 
but  who,  from  the  reference  thus  made  to  him,  may 
be  supposed  to  have  enjoyed  an  eminent  character 
for  learning,  and  to  have  been  as  yet  unsuspected  of 
any  error  in  doctrine ;  and  as  Theodore  approved  the 
words,  the  patriarch  adopted  them,  and  had  some 
correspondence  with  other  persons  on  the  subject." 
The  opposite,  oidyothelete  view,  was  that  "  the  faculty 
of  willing  is  inherent  in  each  of  our  Lord's  natures ; 
although,  as  his  person  is  one,  the  two  wills  act  in 
the  same  direction — the  human  will  being  exercised 
in  accordance  with  the  divine."  One  of  the  ablest 
champions  of  the  orthodox,  or  dyothelete  view,  was 
Maximus,  a  man  of  a  noble  Byzantine  family,  whose 
career  was  not  unlike  that  of  Damascenus  himself. 
He  had  been  "  first  secretary,"  or  secretary  of  state, 
under  the  Emperor  Heraclius,  and,  like  the  one  just 
mentioned,  had  a  prospect  of  high  preferment  at 
court.  But  he,  too,  determined  to  embrace  the 
monastic  life,  and  became  the  zealous  and  untiring 
opposer  of  monotheletism.  Neander's  analysis  of  his 
religious  system  may  help  the  reader  to  form  a  better 
conception    of  the   grounds    on  which    the   twofold 

*   "Christian  Church,"  vol.  ii.,  p.  42. 


THE    GREEK    CHLRCH    IN    THE    EIGHTH    CENTfRV.    4 1 

nature  of  Christ's  will  was  inaiiUaincd.  "  Christianity, 
as  it  seemed  to  him,  forms  the  exact  mean  betwixt 
the  too  narrow  apprehension  of  the  idea  of  Cod  in 
Judaism,  and  the  loo  broad  one  of  the  deification  of 
nature  in  paganism ;  and  this  mean  is  expre?:sed  by 
the  doctrine  of  the  Trinity.  The  highest  end  of  the 
whole  creation  he  supposed  to  be  the  intimate  union 
into  which  Cod  entered  with  it  through  Christ ;  when, 
without  detriment  to  His  immutability,  He  assumed 
human  nature  into  personal  union  for  the  purpose  of 
rendering  humanity  godlike :  Cod  becoming  man 
without  change  of  his  own  essence,  and  receiving 
human  nature  into  union  with  Himself  NNiihout  its 
losing  aught  that  belongs  to  its  peculiar  essence.  It 
was  with  a  view  to  secure  this  point,  that  he  attached 
so  much  importance  also  to  the  articles  touching  the 
union  of  the  two  natures,  in  which  each  retains, 
without  change,  its  own  peculiar  properties.'  It  is 
an  instructive  comment  on  the  passions  that  can  be 
roused  by  such  seemingly  abstruse  and  si)eculative 
doctrines,  to  note  what  was  the  end  of  "the  saintly 
Maximus,"'  as  he  is  often  called.  After  being  banished 
to  a  fortress  in  Thrace,  where  he  was  kept  imprisoned 
in  the  hope  of  a  recantation,  he  was  dragged  back 
again  to  Constantinople,  and  there  j)ublicly  scourged, 
his  tongue  cut  out,  and  his  right  hand  severed  from 
the  wrist — in  this  circumstance  again  recalling  what 
is  recorded  of  John  of  Damascus.  He  was  then 
banished  once  more  to  the  region  of  the  Lazi, — the 
ancient  Colchis, — and  there  died,  in  662,  from  the 
injuries  he  had  undergone.  Still  severer,  if  possible, 
were  the  sufferings  endured  in  the  same  cause  a  few 


42  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

years  before,  by  Pope  Martin  I.  When  Constans  had 
published  in  648  his  religious  edict  known  as  the 
Type,  the  exarch  Olympius  had  orders  to  proceed 
from  Ravenna  to  Rome,  and  there  enforce  the  mono- 
thelete  principles  contained  in  it.  On  the  death  of 
Olympius  in  653,  his  successor,  Calliopas,  went  on 
with  the  execution  of  these  orders.  Martin  I.  was 
seized  by  an  armed  band  of  the  imperial  soldiers  in 
the  Lateran  church,  and  conveyed  as  a  criminal  to 
Constantinople.  In  March,  655,  he  was  banished  to 
the  Crimea,  and  there  he  died,  after  enduring  the 
greatest  privations,  in  September  of  the  same  year. 

It  might  seem  strange  to  us,  did  we  not  recollect 
how  often  the  same  scenes  have  been  enacted  since, 
that  such  should  be  the  practical  outcome  of  opinions 
so  purely  theoretical  as  those  above  described.  And 
yet  it  is  only  ignorance  or  indifference,  that  can 
dismiss  the  subject  of  these  controversies  (as  is 
sometimes  done)  with  only  a  hasty  expression  of 
contempt.  I  say  advisedly,  the  subject,  as  distin- 
guished from  the  mode  in  which  the  dispute  was 
carried  on,  or  the  practical  results  to  which  it  led. 
"  If  we  looked  at  this  controversy  from  one  side,'' 
writes  the  late  Professor  Maurice,^  "we  might  pro- 
nounce it  one  of  the  most  important  and  serious  in 
which  men  were  ever  engaged — the  gathering  up  of 
all  previous  disputes  respecting  freedom  and  neces- 
sity, respecting  the  relation  of  the  Divine  will  to 
the  human,  respecting  the  struggle  in  the  heart  of  hu- 
manity itself.     All  these  arguments  would  seem  to  be 

*  "Medioeval  Philosophy"  (1859),  p.  29. 


THE    GREEK    CHURCH    IN    THE    EIGHTH    CENTURY.    43 

raised  to  their  highest  i)Ower,  to  be  tested  by  their 
relation  to  the  highest  Person,  to  have  reached  the 
point  where  })rofound  speculation  and  daily  practice 
meet  and  lose  themselves  in  each  other.  Contem- 
plated from  another  side,  this  debate  is  worthy  of 
all  the  contempt  which  indifferent  onlookers  bestow 
ui)on  it,  as  upon  every  other  great  topic  of  divinity. 
For  the  persons  who  were  engaged  in  it  were  utterly 
frivolous.  For  them  the  whole  subject  involved  a 
theor)',  and  nothing  more — a  theory  in  which  the 
most  violent  passions  might  be  engaged,  but  which 
demanded  no  faith,  which  led  to  no  moral  act.  The 
controversy  was  the  more  detestable  because  such 
living  interests  seemed  to  be  concerned  in  it,  while  it 
was,  in  fact,  but  an  exercise  for  the  subtlety  of  an 
exhausted,  emasculated  race,  which  had  talked  and 
argued  itself  into  inanition  and  death.  The  historian 
of  human  inquiries  has  no  right  to  pause  long  upon 
this  monothelete  controversy,  merely  because  he 
perceives  how  much  was  implied  in  it.  He  is  to 
measure  debates,  not  by  their  abstract  importance, 
but  by  their  effects  on  the  world.' 

The  language  in  which  the  writer  just  quoted 
describes  the  intellectual  condition  of  the  Greek 
Church  at  this  period  is  perhaps  too  strong.  And 
yet  there  is  much  to  justify  it.  An  age  of  compila- 
tion is  rarely  an  age  of  discovery  as  well.  But  it  was 
essentially  to  compilation,  to  stringing  together  catena:, 
or  series  of  comments  from  the  Greek  fathers  on 
passages  of  Holy  Scripture,  that  expositors  of  the 
sacred  volume  at  this  time  devoted  themselves.  The 
increased  knowledge  of  dialectic,  drawn  from  a  more 


44  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

widely-Spread  acquaintance  with  the  writings  of  Aris- 
totle, and  the  increased  practice  to  which  it  was  put 
in  the  monophysite  and  monothelete  controversies, 
were  made  subservient  to  a  formal  orthodoxy,  to 
enunciating  articles  of  a  creed.  The  ignorant  crowd 
might  be  goaded  to  fury  by  party  cries  in  the  church 
or  the  amphitheatre ;  but  to  clamour  for  or  against  an 
addition  to  the  Trisagion  could  afford  little  presump- 
tion that  the  clamourer  was  in  earnest  about  the 
realities  of  Christian  life.  At  the  same  time  these 
"miserable  circus-fights  of  the  sixth  century,'"  of 
which  Maurice  indignantly  com.plains,  these  windy 
controversies  of  people  "who  had  talked  about  the 
divine  and  human  nature  till  they  had  lost  all  faith  in 
God  and  man,"  were  far  from  devoid  of  eftects,  even 
lasting  effects,  on  the  political  world.  It  is  not  easy 
to  measure  the  importance  of  the  step  taken  by  the 
Roman  pontiff  in  484,  when,  solely  on  the  ground 
of  monophysite  opposition,  Felix  11.  issued  his 
anathema  against  the  patriarch  of  Constantinople, 
and  communion  was  broken  off  between  the  Eastern 
and  Western  churches.  Who  can  calculate  what 
might  have  been  the  condition  of  Russia,  of  Europe, 
of  the  Turkish  Empire,  at  this  day,  had  the  union  of 
the  Eastern  and  Western  churches  not  been  severed  ? 
The  outline  thus  briefly  sketched  of  the  two  great 
controversies  which  harassed  the  Eastern  Church 
during  the  fifth,  skth,  and  seventh  centuries,  seemed 
necessary  as  an  introduction  to  the  state  of  that  Church 
in  John  of  Damascus's  o\rci  day.  The  latter  of  the  two, 
indeed,  the  monothelete,  lingered  on  into  the  eighth 
centur)',  and  John's  writings  are  coloured  by  allusions 


THE    GREEK    CHURCH    IN     IHl.    EIGHTH    CENTURY.    45 

to  it  and  its  predecessor.  Nearly  a  hundred  years  after 
Heraclius  had  vainly  striven  to  unite  the  disorganised 
provinces  of  the  empire  by  a  compromise  which 
should  satisfy  the  monophysites,  we  find  the  Emperor 
Philippicus  Bardanes  (7ii-7i3)giving  the  ascendancy 
to  the  nionothelete  party,  an  ascendancy  only  to  be 
wrested  from  them  once  more  under  his  successor. 
The  subsenience  of  the  Greek  bishops  to  the  imperial 
will  is  an  unfavourable  sign  of  the  times  :  with  (cw 
exceptions,  they  appear  to  have  changed  their  front, 
and  marshalled  their  subordinates  in  new  positions,  at 
the  promulgation  of  an  ecthesis^  or  hetwticon,  or  type, 
with  the  same  readiness  as  officers  at  a  review  execute 
the  evolutions  of  their  troops  when  their  general  has 
given  the  word  of  command.  Such  independent 
thought  as  there  was  seems  mostly  to  have  sought 
the  shelter  of  the  cloister.  Yet  even  here,  how  great 
a  difference  is  perceptible  between  the  freedom  and 
progress  of  the  West,  and  the  ever-circling  and  un- 
progressive  disputations  of  the  East.  We  involun- 
tarily recall  our  own  Bede,  spending  his  last  moments 
in  Wearmouth  Abbey,  dictating  the  closing  verses  of 
his  translation  of  St.  John's  Gospel,  and  compare 
him  with  an  Eastern  counterpart,  such  as  might  have 
been  found  in  the  solitudes  of  Palestine  or  Egypt, 
on  that  same  eve  of  Ascension  Day,  734.  It  may 
have  been  from  a  crushing  sense  of  inferiority  to  the 
jver-growing  power  of  Islam,  no  less  than  from  the 
mfluence  of  writers  like  the  so-called  Dionysius,  and 
Origen,  and  Gregory  of  Nyssa,  that  a  mystic,  con- 
templative, symbolizing  habit  of  mind  took  possession 
of  the   Greek  Church  at  this  time.     The  spread  of 


46  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Christ's  kingdom  on  earth  must  have  seemed  to 
many  to  be  so  checked,  that  the  thoughts  had  no 
reUef  but  in  the  contemplation  of  the  world  unseen. 
Thus  the  figurative,  spiritualizing  tendencies  of  the 
theologian,  and  the  craving  for  coarse  and  material 
representations  of  the  illiterate,  could  find  their  satis- 
faction together,  x^s  the  newer  Platonism  had  tried 
to  sublimate  the  sensual  rites  of  the  old  Greek 
mythology,  so  this  "positive  and  negative  mode  of 
apprehension,"  1  this  way  of  conceiving  God  and 
things  divine  only  under  images,  enabled  the  teacher 
to  extract  a  spiritual  meaning  from  the  rude  and  un- 
artistic  image,  or  the  childish  ceremonial,  in  which 
the  vulgar  delighted. 

This  may  make  it  less  strange  to  find  that  the  next 
great  controversy  which  agitated  the  Church,  that 
with  which  the  name  of  John  of  Damascus  is  so  pro- 
minently associated,  was  about  a  subject  at  first  sight 
so  utterly  foreign  to  the  two  preceding  ones,  as  the 
worship  of  images.  The  iconoclastic  controversy,  as  it 
is  commonly  called,  was,  however,  by  no  means  so 
disconnected,  as  might  have  appeared,  from  the  more 
speculative  ones  already  described.  It  was  their 
legitimate  successor.  While  the  star-gazer  moves  on 
with  his  eyes  intent  on  the  constellations,  his  feet 
fall  into  the  ditch.  While  the  speculative  minds 
of  the  Greek  Church  were  thus  lost  in  bewildering 
altitudes,  the  unlearned  ones  at  the  other  extreme 
were  fast  falling  into  idolatry.  The  term  is  hardly  too 
strong  a  one.      The  picture,  or  the  image,  which  the 

'   Cataphatic  and  Apophatic,  to  use  the  actual  terms. 


THE    GREEK    CHURCH    IN    THE    EIGHTH    CENTURY.    47 

theologian  tolerated,  it  may  bo,  even  api)roved,  as  in  its 
way  a  shadow  of  that  reality  of  whieh  nothing  in  this 
world  could  be  more  than  a  shadow,  was  allowed  to 
become  for  the  multitude  a  palpable  object  of  their 
devotions.  It  has  been  often  alleged  as  a  reason  for 
the  success  of  the  Mahometan  creed,  as  a  justifica- 
tion of  it  in  the  providential  government  of  the 
world,  that  it  did,  in  fact,  recall  men  from  what  was 
[practically  a  worship  of  saints,  and  relics,  and  images, 
to  the  primal  confession  of  One  only  God ;  that  it 
bade  men,  while  they  were  lost  in  endless  discussions 
about  His  nature  and  will,  realise  the  fact  that  there 
was  indeed  a  God  over  the  world,  and  that  His  will 
must  be  obeyed.  When  once  established,  the  Ma- 
hometan faith  has  indeed  shown  a  far  more  lifeless 
rigidity  than  ever  the  Byzantine  Church  did  in  its 
darkest  days.  But  in  the  first  vigour  of  its  youth,  the 
upholders  of  Islam  had  certainly  this  ground  of  van- 
tage, and  knew  how  to  turn  it  to  account.  There 
is  extant  a  letter  of  Leo  the  Isaurian^  to  the  Caliph 

'  The  history  of  this  letter,  to  which  reference  may  be  made 
hereafter,  is  an  interesting  one.  I  owe  my  first  acquaintance 
with  it  to  an  article  in  "La  Helgique,"  by  Felix  Neve.  An 
Armenian  doctor  of  the  eight  century,  named  Ghcvond, 
had  left  a  history  of  his  own  times,  beginning  with  the  sub- 
mission of  Armenia  to  the  Arabian  yoke  in  661,  and  ending 
with  events  of  770  or  771.  In  the  course  of  it  he  embodies  a 
letter  of  Omar  II.,  written  soon  after  his  accession  (in  717)  to 
I. CO,  himself  also  newly  seated  on  his  throne,  as  well  as  the 
emperor's  reply.  Omar's  letter  is  one  of  enquiry  about  the 
Christian  religion,  with  a  statement  of  his  objections  to  it  as 
hitherto  j)rcsentcd  to  him.  One  of  these  nms  as  follows,  in 
the  French  translatirm  (Paris,  1856,  p.  42)  of  the  archimandrite 


48  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Omar  II.,  in  reply  to  one  addressed  to  him  by  the 
latter,  in  which,  singularly  enough,  we  see  the  great 
iconoclastic  emperor  playing  the  part  of  a  defender 
of  images — at  least,  of  what  he  then  thought  their 
reasonable  use.  "  We  honour  the  cross,"  he  writes, 
'•'  because  of  the  sufferings  endured  upon  it  by  the 
incarnate  Word  of  God.  As  for  pictures,  we  do  not 
pay  the  like  respect  to  them,  not  having  received 
from  Holy  Scripture  any  command  whatever  on  the 
subject.  At  the  same  time,  as  we  find  in  the  Old 
Testament  the  divine  commission  to  Moses  to  carve 
figures  of  cherubim  in  the  tabernacle,  and  as  we  are 
inspired  by  a  sincere  regard  for  the  disciples  of  the 
Lord,  and  burning  with  love  of  the  incarnate  Lord 
Himself,  we  have  ever  felt  the  need  of  presen-ing 
their  likenesses  ;  and  these  have  since  become  for  us, 
as  it  were,  their  living  representation.  Their  presence 
delights  us  ;  and  we  glorify  God,  who  saved  us  by 
the  mediation  of  His  only  Son,  appearing  in  the 
world  under  a  like  figure.  We  glorify  the  saints  also  ; 
but  we  render  no  homage  to  painted  wood  (au  bois 
et  aux  couleurs)." 

Such  were  the  moderate  opinions  of  Leo  about  the 
year  717.  But  within  the  next  ten  years  we  find  him 
taking  a  very  different  course.  The  temperate  de- 
fender of  the  use  of  images  now  appears  as  the 
determined  opposer  of  what  he  considered  their 
abuse.      What   causes   may   have   been  at  work   to 

Chahnazarian  :  —  "Pourquoi  adorez-vous  les  ossements  des 
nnotres  et  des  prophetes,  ainsi  que  les  tableaux,  et  la  croix  qui 
anciennement  servait,  selon  la  loi,  d'instrument  de  supplice  ?" 
Leo's  reply  is  not  so  civilly  worded  as  that  of  his  correspondent. 


THE    r.KEEK    CHURCH    IN    THK    EICHTH    CENTURY,    49 

produce  this  change  can  only  be  inferred.'  Ii  may 
have  been  a  conviction  that  nothing  but  a  purified 
faith  in  Christendom  could  long  withstand  the 
advance  of  Islam.  It  may  have  been  the  fruit  of 
continued  attention  given  to  the  subject,  since  he 
was  first  attracted  to  it  by  the  Caliph's  letter.  Or  it 
may  have  been  that  matters  had  been  getting  worse 
in  the  Christian  churches  of  his  dominions  during  the 
past  decade,  and  that,  by  the  year  726,  he  felt  it 
needful  to  interpose,  and  check  the  growing  abuse  of 
what  (for  want  of  a  more  convenient  term)  we  may 
allow  ourselves  to  call  image-worship.  At  any  rate. 
in  the  year  above-named,  he  issued  his  first  ordi- 
nance ;  in  which,  while  not  as  yet  condemning 
images  in  themselves,  he  strove  to  abolish  the  pre- 
vailing mode  of  showing  honour  to  them  by  kneeling 
and  prostration.  Thus  the  signal  was  given  for  battle 
— a  battle  which  raged  long  and  fiercely  and  with 
very  varying  success.  That  the  cause  espoused  by 
Leo  ultimately  failed,  is  (irrespective  of  the  inherent 

*  The  character  and  motives  of  Leo.  III.,  commonly  calletl 
frcm  his  native  country  the  Isaurian,  have  been  very  variously 
represented.  The  ecclesiastical  historians  have  naturally  por- 
trayed him  as  a  violent  and  persecuting  tyrant.  Gibbon,  per- 
haps the  more  readily  on  this  account,  commends  "the  wisdom 
of  his  administration  and  the  purity  of  his  manners."  Dean 
Milman  praises  the  "  incomparable  address  as  prompt  as 
decisive,"'  which  he  showed  in  the  most  trying  situations, 
linlay  ("History  of  the  Iiy/.anline  Empire,"  1854)  and 
Freeman  ("History  and  Conquests  of  the  Saracens,"  1876) 
speak  of  him  in  still  higher  terms.  The  former  indeed  regards 
him  .OS  one  of  the  unappreciated  heroes  of  the  worh),  the 
saviour  of  the  exslern  empire. 

E 


50  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

merits  of  the  case)  but  one  instance  more  of  the 
truth  of  the  observation,  that  a  reforming  movement 
rarely  succeeds,  if  it  begins  with  the  government 
instead  of  the  people. 

The  immediate  results  of  the  edict,  and  the  part 
taken  by  John  of  Damascus,  may  be  more  conveniently 
reserved  for  a  fresh  chapter. 


ST.    JOHN    01     DAMASCUS.  51 


CHAPTKR    VT. 

THE    ICONOCLASTIC    CONTROVERSY. 

The  religious  discussions  which  preceded  this  stormy 
controversy  have  been  briefly  sketched  in  the  fore- 
going chapter.  A  few  words  may  be  desirable  by 
way  of  introduction  to  the  present  one,  on  the  subject 
of  icons,  or  likenesses  (whether  images  or  pictures),  the 
destroyers  of  which  were  called  iconoclasts.  Apart 
from  the  natural  instinct  felt  by  all  men  to  preserve 
some  memorial,  some  token  or  likeness,  of  what  they 
love  and  honour,  it  is  probable  that  among  the  early 
Christians  the  custom  of  employing  such  means  to 
keej)  present  to  their  minds  what  they  venerated,  was 
l)artly  suggested  by  pagan  usages,  partly  in  opposi- 
tion to  them.  That  is  to  say,  as  the  disciple  in  Rome  or 
Corinth  would  see  on  all  sides  the  statues  or  paint- 
ings, or  other  works  of  art,  in  which  the  worship  of 
heathen  divinities  had  found  its  expression,  he  would 
be  impelled,  both  by  the  secret  power  of  imitation, 
and  by  the  desire  to  confront  paganism  with  what 
should  conquer  and  surpass  it  in  all  that  seemed 
beneficial,  to  devise  something  at  once  as  an  equiva- 
lent and  a  protest.  Hence,  at  first  no  doubt  in 
private  houses,  and  aftenvards  in  the  churches  that 
replaced  the  catacombs  or  private  dwellings  in  which 
the  believers  first  met  in  secrecy  and  fear,  there  ramc 
L  2 


52  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

to  be  seen  the  images  of  Christ  and  of  His  Mother, 
images  of  the  saints,  emblems  of  divine  grace  or 
operation,  the  dove  for  the  Holy  Spirit,  the  ark  for 
the  Church,  the  fish,  as  the  letters  of  its  name  in 
Greek  formed  the  initial  letters  of  the  name  and  title 
of  Christ,  the  anchor  of  Christian  hope,  and  so  on. 
Such  effigies  were  engraved  on  their  signets,  and 
drinking-cups,  and  tombs;  and  by-and-by  were  found 
on  the  walls  of  their  churches  as  well.  To  trace  the 
growth  of  this  practice  through  successive  generations 
would  be  beyond  our  limits  :  it  may  be  sufficient  to 
remark  that  it  developed  more  slowly  in  the  Western 
than  in  the  Eastern  branch  of  the  Church.  Coming 
at  once  to  a  time  approaching  that  of  John  of 
Damascus,  we  find  Gregory  the  Great  (590-604) 
writing  to  a  hermit  who  had  applied  to  him  on  the 
subject,  that  he  was  well  aware  that  his  correspondent 
desired  not  the  image  of  his  Saviour,  to  worship  it  as 
God,  but  to  kindle  in  him  the  love  of  Him  whose 
image  he  beheld.  "  Neither  do  we,"'  he  added,^ 
"  prostrate  ourselves  before  the  image  as  before  a 
Deity ;  but  we  adore  Him,  whom  the  symbol  repre- 
sents to  our  memory  as  born,  or  suffering,  or  seated 
on  the  throne." 

There  could  have  been  small  cause  for  dissension, 
if  all  who  found  comfort  in  a  crucifix  or  a  painting 
had  kept  themselves  within  these  bounds.  But  even 
in  the  Western  Church,  and  still  more  widely  and 
rapidly  in  the  Eastern,  the  actual  practice,  unless  all 
testimony  is  to  be  discredited,  went  far  beyond  this. 

'  Neandtr,  v.,  p.  275. 


THE    ICONOCLASriC   CONTROVERSV.  53 

It  had  become  usual  "  to  fall  down  before  images,  to 
pray  to  them,  to  kiss  them,  to  burn  lights  and  incense 
in  their  honour,  to  adorn  them  with  gems  and 
precious  metals,  to  lay  the  hand  on  them  in  swearing, 
and  even  to  employ  them  as  sponsors  at  baptism."' 
Tiie  miracles  alleged  to  have  been  wrought  b}'  them 
were  multiplied.  Germanus,  Patriarch  of  Constanti- 
nople, when  Leo's  first  edict  was  put  forth,  dwells 
particularly  on  this  as  a  motive  for  retaining  them  in 
veneration.  He  specifies,  in  one  of  his  letters,  an 
image-  of  the  Virgin  at  Sozopolis  in  Pisidia,  from  the 
hand  of  which  unguents  distilled.  More  famous  still 
was  the  likeness  of  our  Lord,  said  to  have  been  borne 
by  Ananias  to  Edessa,  and  placed  by  King  Abgar  in 
a  niche  over  the  city  gate.  There  it  was  carefully 
concealed  by  the  Bishop  of  Edessa,  in  the  time  of 
Abgar's  grandson,  with  a  lamp  burning  before  it ;  and 
when,  five  centuries  after  this,  the  Persians  had  been 

'  Robertson,  ii.,  p.  91. 

'  Gieselcr,  ii.,  p.  201.  Il  should  be  observed  that,  while 
the  terms  "images"  and  "image-worship"  are  retained,  for 
want  of  a  better  substitute,  each  of  them  requires  some  qualifi- 
cation. The  "images"  finally  sanctioned  in  the  seventh 
general  council  (the  second  of  Xiccca,  786),  "  were  not  works 
of  sculpture,  but  paintings  and  other  representations  on  a  flat 
surface  ;  a  limitation  to  which  the  Greek  Church  h.as  ever 
since  adhered."  Robertson,  ib.,  p.  164.  We  have  also,  as 
Dean  Milman  has  observed,  no  words  corresponding  to  the 
proskuncsis  and  latnia  of  the  Greeks  ;  the  single  term  "  wor- 
shij)  "  having  to  do  duty  both  for  the  honour  implied  in  the 
former,  which  the  Greek  divines  allowed  to  be  paid  to  their 
icons,  and  for  the  scrvUc  or  homage  implied  in  the  latter,  which 
is  due  to  God  only.  Of  course  the  main  question  is,  whether 
the  multitude  practically  observed  any  such  distinction. 


54  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

repulsed  by  the  hidden  virtue  of  this  picture,  it  was 
found,  on  being  taken  from  its  concealment,  to  have 
the  lamp  still  burning  before  it.  It  was  afterwards 
removed  to  Byzantium. ^  The  rough  mountaineer  of 
Isauria,  an  emperor  whose  life  had  been  spent  chiefly 
in  the  camp,  was  not  likely  to  listen  with  more  patience 
to  the  recital  of  such  fables,  than  our  own  Henry  VIII. 
to  accounts  of  the  marvels  wrought  by  the  image  of 
St.  Mary  of  Walsingham  or  our  Lady  of  Ipswich. 

But  our  immediate  concern  is  with  the  way  in 
which  John  of  Damascus  took  up  the  gauntlet  thus 
thrown  down.  As  soon,  probably,  as  the  news 
reached  Syria,  he  drew  up  his  first  Apology^  or  dis- 
course in  defence  of  the  sacred  images,  designed  for 
circulation  throughout  the  empire.  In  this  he  com- 
bated the  position  taken  by  the  iconoclasts.  To  the 
objection  drawn  from  the  language  of  the  Second 
Commandment,  he  replied  that  figures  of  the 
cherubim,  and  of  animals  and  plants,  were  used  to 
adorn  the  Temple,  and  that  "  the  letter  killeth,  but 
the  spirit  giveth  life."  If  the  prohibition  in  that 
Second  Commandment  was  directed,  not  against 
making  such  images,  but  worshipping  them,  then  (he 
can  reply)  "  I  adore  not  the  earthly  material,  but  its 
Creator,  who  for  my  sake  vouchsafed  to  dwell  in  an 
earthly  tabernacle,  and  who  by  the  earthly  material 
wrought  out  my  salvation. "^     With  such  a  "  relative 

^  The  story  is  in  Georgius  Cedrenus,  a  monk  of  the  eleventh 
century.  See  Mr.  Wright's  article  on  Abgar  in  the  "Dic- 
tionary of  Christian  Literature." 

^  Neander,  v.,  p.  286,  where  an  abstract  of  the  discourse  is 
given. 


THE    ICONOCLASTIC   CONTROVERSY.  55 

iioiiour  and  veneration,"^  belonging  to  them  in  virtue 
of  their  associations,  he  declares  that  he  will  never 
(case  honouring  the  earthly  material  by  means  of 
which  his  salvation  had  been  effected.  Or  again, 
should  it  be  urged  that  the  images  of  Christ  and  the 
Virgin  Mother  would  be  sufficient  for  this  purpose, 
he  answers,  that  to  forbid  the  rendering  a  share  of 
the  like  honour  to  images  of  sainted  men  would  be  to 
disparage  that  human  nature  which  Christ  had  exalted 
by  His  incarnation.  "Why  should  not  the  saints, 
who  have  shared  in  the  sufferings  of  Christ,  share  also, 
as  His  friends,  even  here  upon  earth,  in  His  glory  ?  " 
In  this,  in  truth,  lay  the  difference  between  the  old 
dispensation  and  the  new.  Under  the  old,  a  man's 
death  was  but  an  occasion  for  mourning.  No  temple 
was  dedicated  to  God  under  any  man's  name.  But 
now  the  memory  of  the  saints  was  held  in  honour, 
and  the  "  mourning  for  a  Jacob"  changed  into  the 
"  rejoicing  for  a  Stephen." 

Meanwhile  the  imperial  edict  was  producing  a 
greater  ferment  in  men's  minds  than  I.eo  himself  had 
l^robably  expected.  The  erujition  of  a  volcano  in 
the  ^gaean,  and  the  sudden  throwing  up  of  a 
volcanic  island,  was  looked  on  as  a  token  of  the 
wrath  of  heaven  against  the  suppressors  of  image- 
worship.      In  the  Archipelago  the  influence  of  the 

*  The  phrase  is  from  the  Rev.  W.  Palmer's  "  Dissertations 
on  Subjects  Relating  to  the  Orthodox  or  Eastern-Catholic 
Communion,"  1853,  p.  265.  Dissertation  xviii.  of  that  work  is 
entitled  :  "Of  the  worship  or  veneration  of  icons  and  relics," 
and  contains  a  skilful  defence,  though  in  the  nature  of  special 
pleading,  of  the  practice  of  the  Eastern  Church  in  this  par- 
ticular. 


56  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

monks  was  great,  and  this  was  thrown  into  the  scale 
against  the  emperor.  An  insurrection  was  raised  in 
the  Cyclades.  A  pretender  to  the  throne  was  set  up 
in  the  person  of  one  Cosmas,  and  an  ill-equipped 
fleet  was  sent  against  Constantinople.^  Leo  had  no 
difficulty  in  suppressing  the  revolt,  and  the  exaspera- 
tion it  produced  only  led  him  on  to  take  still  severer 
measures.  In  730,  or  shortly  before,  he  issued  a 
second  edict,  in  which,  not  content  with  forbidding 
the  worship  of  images,  or  ordering  them  to  be  placed 
in  such  a  position  on  the  walls  as  not  to  invite  adora- 
tion, he  decreed  the  absolute  unlawfulness  of  images 
in  churches.  Such  as  were  found  there  were  to  be 
destroyed,  and  the  vacant  spaces  where  they  had 
been  were  to  be  washed  over.  Germanus,  Patriarch 
of  Constantinople,  an  old  man  of  ninety-five,  resigned 
his  office  sooner  than  obey  this  new  edict,  and  was 
succeeded  by  his  syiicellus^  or  secretary,  Anastasius. 

On  hearing  of  the  deposition  of  Germanus,  John 
of  Damascus  ^composed  his  second  address.  The 
immediate  cause  of  it,  he  says  at  the  beginning,  was 
a  want  of  perspicuity  in  the  first — "  on  account  of 
the  first  discourse  being  not  very  intelligible  to  the 
multitude."  Possibly  they  found  it  less  difficult  to 
understand  his  meaning  than  to  determine  at  once 
what  ought  to  be  done.  John  himself,  whether  still 
at  the  Caliph's  Court  in  Damascus,  or  an  inmate  of 
the   monastery   of  St.    Sabas,^   was   within   Saracen 

'  Robertson,  ii.,  p.  94. 

^  To  this  period  belongs  the  story  of  Leo's  atteoipt  to  com- 
pass the  ruin  of  John  of  Damascus  by  means  of  the  forged 
letter  before  referred  to.     If  we  could  trust  the  author  of  the 


IHL    ICONOCLASTIC    CONTROVERSY.  57 

jurisdiction,  and  out  of  the  cmi)eror's  reach  ;  and  in 
his  boldness  therefore  there  was  not  of  necessity  any 
thing  very  heroic.  But  those  wlio  were  more  exposed 
to  the  imperial  displeasure  must  often  have  felt  them- 
selves in  a  strait.  As  an  instance  of  the  height  to 
which  popular  passions  were  roused,  may  be  mentioned 
the  destruction  of  the  great  statue  of  Christ  standing; 
over  the  Bronze  Gate  of  the  palace  in  Constantinople, 
and  known  by  the  name  of  the  Surety,  from  a  legend 
of  its  having  once  been  a  surety  for  a  Christian  sailor 
when  forced  to  borrow  money.  This  image,  obnoxious 
to  Leo  from  its  prominent  position  and  the  super- 
stitious veneration  with  which  it  was  regarded,  was 
doomed  to  destruction,  and  a  soldier  of  the  imperial 
guard  mounted  a  ladder  to  remove  it.  A  crowd  of 
women  thronged  about  him,  with  entreaties  to  spare 
it.  When  he  struck  his  axe  against  the  face  of  the 
image,  they  dragged  down  the  ladder  in  fury,  and  the 
soldier  was  either  killed  by  the  fall,  or,  like  a  second 
Pentheus,  torn  in  pieces  by  the  infuriated  women. ^ 

*'  Life,"  John  was  then  at  Damascus.  But  Lc'iuien  conjec- 
tures that  he  must  have  been  ordained  before  this  controversy 
broke  out  (C>//.  i.  §  452).  His  reason  for  thinking  so  is,  that 
in  his  sermon  on  the  Annunciation,  delivered  after  his  ordina- 
tion, he  speaks  of  the  Roman  Empire  as  at  peace.  This,  in 
Lcquien's  Judgment,  would  not  have  been  said  after  the  icono- 
clastic storm  had  begun  to  rage.  Whatever  the  argument  is 
worth,  it  >vill  hardly  l>ear  Gibbon  out  in  saying  (Ch.  xlix.  not. 
in  he.)  "t!ie  legend  [of  the  amputated  hand]  is  famous  ;  but  his 
learned  editor,  father  Lecjuicn,  has  unluckily  ^r(nfJ  that  St. 
John  Damascenus  was  already  a  monk  before  the  Iconoclast 
dispute." 

'  Sec  an  article  in  the   Christian  Obscf-er  for   1877,  where 
Baronius's  commendation  of  these  "  harridans  "  is  discussed. 


58  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

The  house  of  the  new  patriarch,  Anastasius,  was 
attacked,  and  it  was  not  without  considerable  blood- 
shed that  order  was  restored.  The  statue  was  how- 
ever removed — to  be  erected  again  at  a  later  time  by 
the  Empress  Irene — and  a  plain  cross  set  up  in  the 
niche  where  it  had  stood.  An  inscription  was  added, 
in  Greek  iambics,  as  a  testimony  to  the  emperor's 
zeal : — 

"  Enduring  not  that  here  a  lifeless  form, 
A  speechless  wooden  image,  smeared  with  paint, 
Should  bear  the  name  of  Christ,  our  sov'ran  lord 
Leo,  and  with  him  Constantine  his  son, 
Have  carved  this  blessed  emblem  of  the  cross, 
Joy  of  the  faithful,  o'er  the  palace  gates." 

It  was  to  minds  thus  excited  that  the  remaining 
letters  of  John  were  addressed.  His  second  and 
third  discourses  do  not  contain  many  fresh  arguments  ; 
the  third  in  particular  being  little  more  than  a  repeti- 
tion of  the  other  two  ;  but  he  uses  much  stronger  lan- 
guage in  the  second  than  in  the  first.  It  is  the  welfare 
of  the  state^  he  says,  that  is  the  concern  of  kings  ;  the 
settlement  of  the  church  is  for  pastors  and  teachers. 
Without  as  yet  going  so  far  as  to  anathematise  Leo, 
even  praying  that  the  necessity  for  such  a  step  may 
be  averted,  he  hints  very  plainly  at  such  an  issue  in 
the  turn  he  gives  to  a  passage  from  St.  Paul.  Citing 
the  words  of  Gal.  i.  8,  he  significantly  inserts  the 
name  of  king : — "  But  though  we,  or  an  angel  from 
heaven,  or  a  kifig,  preach  any  other  gospel  unto  you 
than  that  which  we  have  preached  unto  you  " — and 
there  stops  short.     "  Shut  your  ears,"  he  concludes, 


THE    ICONOCLASTIC    CONTROVKRSV.  59 

"for   I   shrink   as  yet  from  saying  what    tlic  divine 
apostle  said,  let  him  be  accursed  (Or.  iii.  c.  3). 

The  sequel  of  the  iconoclastic  disputes,  as  it  only 
indirectly  concerns  our  subject,  may  be  very  briefly 
dismissed.  Rome  from  the  first  paid  no  heed  to 
these  edicts  of  the  Byzantine  emperor.  Pope  Ger- 
manus  II.  wrote  to  Leo  a  letter,  in  which,  by  some 
strange  confusion,  he  compares  him  to  Uzziah^  who 
had  broken  the  brazen  serpent  in  pieces.  In  this  he 
uses  the  most  violent  and  contemptuous  language 
towards  Leo  and  his  principles.  "Go  into  the  schools," 
he  exclaims,^  "where  the  children  are  learning  to  read 
and  write,  and  tell  them  you  are  the  persecutor  of  the 
images  ;  they  would  instantly  throw  their  tablets  at 
your  head,  and  the  ignorant  would  teach  you  perforce 
what  you  would  not  learn  from  the  wise."  In  741 
Leo  was  succeeded  by  his  son  Constantine  Coprony- 
mus,  a  ruler  of  undoubted  ability  and  as  undoubted 
cruelty.  He  carried  on  the  iconoclastic  designs  of 
his  father  with  a  kindred  determination ;  and  the 
scenes  of  violence  and  persecution  that  ensued  are 
well-nigh  enough  to  bear  out  the  invectives  that  have 
been  heaped  upon  him  by  monastic  historians.  The 
greatest  palliation  that  can  be  found  is  in  the  muti- 
nous, intemperate  behaviour  of  the  monks  and  other 
advocates  of  image-worship  towards  himself.  A  single 
instance,  reminding  us  forcibly  of  Henry  H.  and 
Thomas  \  Becket,  may  serve  as  a  specimen.  An 
old  monk  named  Stephanus,  on  whom  banishment 
and  torture  could  make  no  impression,  had  tried  to 

*  Ncandcr  v.,  p.  291, 


6o  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAr.IASCUS. 

reflect  upon  the  emperor's  conduct,  by  throwing  on  the 
ground  a  coin  bearing  his  image  and  stamping  upon 
it.  For  this  he  was  imprisoned  afresh ;  but  his  act 
was  applauded  so  warmly,  that  Constantine  was 
driven  to  exclaim,  "Am  I,  or  is  this  monk,  emperor 
of  the  world  ?  "  The  words,  just  as  in  the  parallel 
case  from  our  own  history,  were  caught  up  by  eager 
courtiers.  The  prison  in  which  Stephanus  was 
confined  was  burst  open,  he  liimself  was  dragged 
through  the  streets  by  a  rope  tied  to  his  heels  till  he 
was  dead,  and  his  body  thrown  into  a  receptacle  for 
suicides  and  criminals.^  Such  proofs  of  indomitable 
resolution  in  his  opponents  may  have  convinced 
Copronymus  that  his  hands  would  need  strengthen- 
ing by  the  support  of  church  councils.  Accordingly, 
in  754,  he  convened  an  assembly  of  bishops  from  his 
own  dominions  to  the  shores  of  the  Bosphorus.  The 
pope  disregarded  the  summons,  and  would  not 
attend ;  the  patriarch  of  Constantinople  (Anastasius) 
was  dead ;  the  other  three  patriarchates  were  under 
Mahometan  sway.  Still,  an  imposing  array  of  three 
hundred  and  thirty-eight  bishops  was  collected,  and 
by  their  pliant  decisions  the  iconoclastic  principles 
were  confirmed.  The  chief  defenders  of  image- 
worship  were  anathematised  by  name ;  the  old 
patriarch  Germanus,  George,  metropolitan  of  Cyprus, 
and,  above  all,  John  of  Damascus,  being  conspicuous 
objects  of  displeasure.  '•  Anathema  to  Mansour," 
ran  the  sentence,  "  cursed  favourer  of  the  Saracens, 
traitorous   worshipper  of  images,  wronger   of  Jesus 

Robertson,  ii.,  \\  105. 


THE    ICONOCLASTIC    CONTROVKRSY.  6 1 

Christ,  and  disloyal  to  the  empire  !  Anathema  to 
Mansour,  teacher  of  inijjiety,  and  had  interpreter  of 
Scripture  !  "  An  additional  insult  was  devised,  by  the 
emperor's  causing  his  name  to  be  written  "  Manzcr," 
bastani}  instead  of  Mansour ;  a  s])ecies  of  affront 
very  popular  at  the  time,  and  hardly  less  so  since. 
It  is  difficult  to  believe  that  the  bigotry  of  Constantine 
could  carry  him  so  far,  as  to  ordain  that,  in  place  of 
the  religious  paintings  removed  from  church  walls, 
there  should  be  substituted  pictures  of  **  birds  and 
fruits,  or  scenes  from  the  chase,  the  theatre,  and  the 
circus.''  Yet  it  is  not  easy  to  say  what  bounds  a 
ruler  of  such  a  disposition  would  set  to  his  imperious 
will,  when  provoked  by  the  fanatical  obstinacy  of  the 
opposing  party.  Even  his  ablest  apologist  cannot 
deny  that  in  following  out  his  purpose  he  was  guilty 
of  violent  excesses,  and  that  **  when  either  policy  or 
passion  prompted  him  to  order  punishment  to  be 
inflicted,  it  was  done  with  fearful  severity."  - 

'  ••  Instead  of  liis  grandfather's  name,  Manaoiir ''  (says 
Theophanes,  "  Chronographia,"  ed.  Migne,  p.  S41),  "which  is 
by  interpretation  ransomed,  he  called  the  new  doctor  of  the 
Church  Matr.cr,  with  a  Jewish  meaning."  The  word  is  usetl 
in  this  form  in  the  Vulgate  of  Dcut.  xxiii.,  2,  and  in  the  Douay 
version  taken  from  it  : — "  A  manucr,  that  is  to  say,  one  bom  cl 
a  prostitute,  shall  not  enter  into  the  church  of  the  Lord."  In 
a  like  spirit  John  had  been  nicknamed  Sarabaita  for  Sabaita, 
and  Jannes  for  Joannes  ;  while  he  himself  was  not  backward 
to  miscall  the  iconoclastic  bishops  cpiscotoi  (obscurantists)  for 
episcopoi.  Readers  of  Dr.  .Maitland  will  call  to  mind  the 
many  instances  he  brings  of  the  fondness  of  the  earlier  Puritans 
for  the  same  kind  of  thing. 

'  Finlay,  "  Byzantine  Empire,"*  i.,  p.  72.  How  diflkult  it  is 
to  discern  the  true  character  of  the  great  actors  in  these  timvs 


62  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

But  as  the  suppression  of  image-worship  took  its 
rise  with  the  emperor,  so  it  was  Uable  to  come  to  an 
end  with  any  change  in  the  occupant  of  the  throne. 
Constantine  had  bound  the  inhabitants  of  Constan- 
tinople— according  to  some,  all  the  inhabitants  of  his 
dominions — by  an  oath,  to  the  observance  of  his 
decrees.  But  he  died  in  775,  and  his  son,  Leo  IV., 
reigned  but  four  years  and  a  half.  The  empress- 
mother,  Irene,  was  left  as  regent  during  the  minority 
of  her  son,  Constantine  VI.,  a  child  of  ten  years  old. 
Irene  had  been  bound,  like  the  rest,  by  her  father-in- 
law's  oath,  but  her  mind  was  bent  on  undoing  the 
religious  work  of  his  reign.  Comparing  the  short 
interregnum  of  Leo  IV.  to  that  of  our  Edward  VI., 
the  task  she  set  herself  will  appear  not  altogether 
unlike  that  undertaken  by  Queen  Mary.  Without 
entering  into  details  concerning  the  opposition  she 
had  to  overcome,  or  the  prelates  and  soldiers  she  had 
to  conciliate,  it  may  suffice  to  say  that  in  787  a  second 
council  was  assembled,  by  her  direction,  at  Nicsea,  at 
which  the  decrees  of  the  iconoclastic  council  in  the 
Herseum  in  754  were  revoked.  It  was  now  decided 
that,  "even  as  the  figure  of  the  cross  was  honoured, 
so  images  of  the  Saviour  and  the  Blessed  Virgin,  of 
angels  and  of  saints,  whether  painted  or  mosaic,  or  of 
any  other  suitable  material,  are  to  be  set  up  for  kiss- 
through  the  mists  of  partisan  historians,  may  be  inferred  from 
the  very  sobriquet  of  Copronyi7ius  which  they  have  succeeded 
in  fastening  on  this  emperor.  Though  as  famiharly  known  to 
us  by  it  as  Caius  by  his  nickname  of  Caligula,  it  was  really 
meant  for  a  most  opprobrious  epithet,  based  on  a  legend  of  his 
having  fouled  the  baptismal  font  when  an  infant. 


IMK    ICONOCLASTIC    CONTROVERSY.  63 

ing  and  otlior  honourable  reverence  {proskunesis),  but 
not  for  that  real  service  {/atrcia)  which  belongs  to  the 
Divine  nature  alone."  ^  This  council  gradually  came 
to  be  regarded,  both  by  Greeks  and  Latins,  as  the 
seventh  general  council ;  and  with  its  settlement  of 
the  question  we  may  for  the  present  take  leave  of  the 
subject. 

'   Kohcrtson,  ii.,  p.  157. 


64  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


PART  II. 

WRITINGS. 
CHAPTER    VII. 

THE    "  FONS    SCIENTI.C." 

It  is  not  easy  to  keep  separate  the  life  and  works  of 
an  author,  when  he  is  known  to  us  only  by  a  collec- 
tion of  wTitings,  admitting  no  settled  order  of  chro- 
nology ;  and  by  vague  traditions,  suggested  in  many 
cases  (as  it  is  probable)  by  those  writings.  Of  such  a 
one  it  might  almost  be  said  that  his  written  works 
constitute  his  life.  So  it  is  in  a  great  measure  with  this 
Doctor  of  the  Eastern  Church.  Had  we  possessed 
any  complete  or  trustworthy  account  of  him  from  in- 
dependent sources,  it  would  have  been  natural  to 
relate  the  story  of  his  life  first,  and  then  enter  upon 
an  investigation  of  his  writings.  But  the  events  in 
which  we  can  trace  any  active  part  taken  by  him  are 
so  few,  and  among  those  the  controversy  on  image - 
worship  holds  so  prominent  a  place,  that  it  seemed 
most  fitting  to  notice  his  three  letters  or  discourses  on 
that  subject,  in  the  account  of  the  controversy  just 
given.  If  we  are  to  trust  the  accredited  biography  of 
John  of  Jerusalem,  these  letters  also  differ  from  all 
the  rest  of  his  writings  in  having  been  composed 
before  his  retirement  to  a  monastery.     There  may 


THE    "  FONS    SCIF.NTI.i:."  65 

accordingly  be  the  loss  impropriety  in  beginning  our 
sur\ey  of  the  extant  works  ^  of  John  of  Damascus 
with  those  which  confessedly  belong  to  his  monastic 
life.  Of  these  the  first  in  order  of  importance  is  the 
"  Fons  Sciential,"  or  *'  Source  of  Knowledge." 

Under  this  title  is  comprised  a  group  of  three 
works,  each  complete  in  itself,  but  forming  to- 
gether an  encyclopaedia  of  Christian  theology.  They 
are  (i)  "Capita  Philosophica,"  (2)  "  De  Hxresibus 
Liber,"  (3)  "  Expositio  accurata  Fidei  Orthodo.xae." 
The  general  title  of  "  Source,  or  Well-Spring  of 
Knowledge  "  {Pt'.i^d  G'ldseos)  is  given  by  the  author 
himself,  at  the  end  of  the  second  chapter  of  the  first 
treatise,  in  which  he  says  that  his  intention  is  to  sketch 
out  an  epitome  of  all  knowledge.  To  this  end,  he 
will  first  clear  and  strengthen  the  intellectual  vision 
by  help  of  the  best  philosophical  system  he  knew, 
that  of  Aristotle  ;  then  he  will  pass  in  review  the 
erroneous  opinions  of  heretics,  from  the  earliest  times 
to  his  own  ;  and  lastly,  he  will  set  forth  an  exposition 
of  divine   truth.     From   the  dedication   to   Cosmas, 

'  It  may  be  mentioned  that  the  first  printed  edition  of  any 
portion  of  Damascenus  was  that  of  a  Latin  version  of  the  "  De 
I'idc  Oriho<loxa,"  by  Jacobus  Fabcr,  in  1507.  The  first  Greek 
edition  in  print  was  that  of  tlic  same  treatise,  with  additions,  at 
Verona,  in  1531.  The  first  approach  to  a  collected  edition  of 
the  works,  still  only  in  a  Latin  translation,  was  that  by  Gravius 
of  Baycux,  published  at  Cologne  in  1546.  Passing  over  other 
editions,  we  come  to  the  great  one  of  the  French  Dominican 
I^quien,  in  two  vols.,  fob,  Paris,  1712.  This  has  l>een  re- 
printed, with  the  addition  of  some  doubtful  pieces,  in  the  scries 
of  the  Abbe  Migne,  3  vols.,  Paris,  1864;  and  it  is  to  this 
that  all  references  will  be  made. 
F 


66  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Bishop  of  Maiuma,  it  would  seem  that  the  collective 
work  was  not  finished,  at  least  in  its  present  form, 
before  the  year  743  ;  that  being  the  date  assigned  to 
Cosmas's  consecration.  We  propose  to  give  a  short 
analysis  of  each  of  these  three  treatises. 

The  title  of  the  first,  "  Capita  Philosophica " 
{Kephalaia  Philosophica)^  or  "  Heads  of  Philo- 
sophy," appears  to  indicate  a  wider  scope  than  the 
extant  treatise  takes  in.  As  it  actually  stands,  the 
current  heading,  "  Dialectica,"  really  answers  more 
accurately  to  it,  as  it  consists  of  little  more  than  a 
series  of  short  chapters  on  the  Categories  of  Aristotle, 
and  on  the  Universals  of  Porphyry.  If  it  is  not  to  be 
regarded  as  one  section  or  instalment  of  a  larger  work, 
we  must  conclude  that  Damascenus  was  content  with 
so  much  only  of  philosophic  introduction,  as  would 
fit  his  readers  to  judge  the  better  between  what  was 
false  and  what  was  true — the  subject  matter  of  his 
next  two  divisions  of  the  "Fons  Scientiae."  For  he 
says  plainly  enough  (cap.  iii.)  that  logic,  or  dialectic, 
is  rather  an  instrument  of  philosophy  than  a  division 
of  it  itself  And  that  he  took  no  narrow  view  of  the 
field  of  philosophy,  is  clear  from  the  fanciful  six- 
fold definition  of  it  which  he  gives  at  the  outset,  and 
still  more  from  his  division  of  it  into  (i)  Speculative, 
(2)  Practical;  these  again  being  subdivided  respectively 
into  (i)  Theology,  Physiology  (or  Natural  Science),  and 
Mathematics  \  (2)  Ethics,  Economics,  and  Politics. 
It  is  obvious,  therefore,  that  by  the  title  of  this  piece, 
assuming  it  to  be  complete,  he  can  only  have  meant 
to  give  a  summary  of  one  department  of  philo- 
sophy.    This  is  further  evident  from  the  contents  of 


THE  "  FONS  scientm;."  6j 

the  sixty-eight  short  chapters  or  sections,  into  wliith 
the  work  is  divided.  The  nature  of  some  of  them 
may  be  gathered  from  the  headings  : — "  On  entity, 
substance,  and  accident,"  "  On  genus,"  "On  species," 
"On  predications,"  &c.  It  is,  in  fact,  in  the  main,  a 
summar)' of  the  Categories,  together  with  the"Isagoge," 
or  introduction  to  them,  of  Porphyry. 

It  would  be  impossible  to  make  any  detailed 
account  of  such  a  subject  interesting  to  the  readers 
for  whom  this  little  work  is  designed.  But  it  is,  at 
any  rate,  instructive  to  note,  that  we  have  here  a 
Greek  Christian  of  Palestine,  in  the  eighth  century, 
expounding  one  of  the  treatises  of  the  Organon,  and 
applying  its  methods  to  Christian  doctrine.  Boethius, 
in  the  fifth  centur)',  had  translated  into  Latin  all  the 
treatises  of  which  Aristotle's  great  work  consists ; 
but  of  these  the  "Analytics,"  the  "Topics,"  and  the 
"Elenchi  Sophistici,"  seem  to  have  lain  in  oblivion 
until  the  beginning  of  the  twelfth  century.  The 
"Categories"  and  the  "De  Interpretatione,"  were 
practically  the  whole  of  Aristotle  known  in  Europe 
during  that  long  interval.  If,  then,  we  see  John  of 
Damascus  familiar  with  one  of  these  in  the  year  743, 
and  making  its  method  and  apj^lication  known  by 
his  "Dialectic,"  it  should  raise  our  opinion  of  the 
importance  of  his  work  in  the  history  of  philo- 
sophical inquiry.  There  has  long  been  a  tendency 
to  overrate  the  services  rendered  by  the  Aral)ians 
to  art  and  literature.  The  imagination  is  apt  to 
be  dazzled  by  the  glories  of  Bagdad  and  Cordova  ; 
by  stories  of  Al-Mansour  and  Haroun-al-Raschid. 
But    John  of  Damascus  wrote  before   Bagdad   was 

F    2 


68  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

made  the  seat  of  empire.  He  preceded  by  a 
whole  century  the  Arabic  translators  of  Aristotle, 
Mdsuch  the  physician,  Honain  his  pupil,  Isaac  the 
son  of  Honain.^  The  great  Syriac  Lexicon  of  Bern- 
stein shows,  by  the  number  of  words  of  Greek  forma- 
tion it  contains,  how  much  the  vernacular  had  been 
enriched  by  the  contributions  of  writers  like  Damas- 
cenus,  from  the  middle  of  the  eighth  century.  It  is 
this  priority  in  time,  along  with  the  application  of  the 
Aristotelian  method  to  Christian  theology,  that  gives 
its  value  to  the  "Capita  Philosophica." 

The  second  work  of  this  group  is  the^DeHaeresibus 
Compendium,'*  or  Summary  of  Heresies.  In  this  there 
is  the  least  originality  of  the  three,  as  it  is  little  more 
than  a  transcript  of  a  similar  work  by  Epiphanius,  in 
the  fourth  century,  with  some  additions  by  Damas- 
cenus  himself.  In  the  introductory  letter  to  Cosmas 
he  had  disclaimed  all  pretence  to  originality,  so  that 
we  must  not  misjudge  him.  Epiphanius,  in  his  work, 
had  enumerated  eighty  sects,  or  heresies,  beginning 
with  what  we  should  hardly  class  in  such  a  list, — 
the  four  states  of  life  mentioned  by  St.  Paul  (Col. 
iii.  ii),  as  those  of  the  Greek,  the  Jew,  the  Barbarian, 
and  the  Scythian.  His  last  is  that  of  the  Massalians. 
This  accordingly  re-appears  in  the  work  of  John  of 
Damascus,  and  is  followed  by  an  appendix  of  some 
twenty-three  or  twenty-four  more,  drawn  from  Timo- 
theus  Presbyter,  and  others.  The  author  himself 
makes  the  number  to  be  just  one  hundred  (p.  777) ; 


'   "La  Belgique,"  torn,   xii.,   p.  127.     See  also  Mullinger'a 
University  of  Cambridge"  (1873),  p.  92. 


THE    "  FONS    SCIENTLt."  69 

but  counting  one  or  two  doubtful  ones,  wliich  may 
have  been  added  by  some  later  reviser,  there  are  one 
hundred  and  three  in  all.  The  most  interesting 
article  in  this  latter  portion,  as  well  as  the  only  one 
(with  the  exception  of  that  on  the  Christianocategori, 
or  Iconoclasts),  which  may  probably  be  the  work  of 
Damascenus  himself,  is  that  on  the  Mahometans, 
whom  he  calls  Ishmaelites.  The  arguments  contained 
in  it  may  be  more  conveniently  noticed  when  we  come 
to  consider  John's  writings  on  this  topic  collectively. 
But  we  may  observe,  in  passing,  his  odd  derivation 
of  the  name  Saracen.  Tracing  the  origin  of  the  race 
up  to  Hagar  and  Ishmael,  who  were  sent  empty 
away  by  Sarah,  he  deduces  their  name  from  two 
Greek  words  {Sarrhas-kenoi),  signifying  "Sarah's 
empty  ones."  Like  P^piphanius,  he  concludes  his 
summary  of  false  beliefs  by  a  profession  of  the 
true.  Ever  mindful  of  monophysite  and  monothelete 
disputes,  which  he  had  referred  to  even  in  his 
'•  Dialectic,"  he  inserts  a  clause  in  this  creed  on  the 
"  one  will,  one  action  "  in  the  three  hypostases  of  the 
Godhead.  The  myster\'  of  the  Trinity  he  strives  to 
illustrate,  by  a  parallel  with  the  root,  the  branch,  and 
the  fruit,  of  a  tree ;  or  again,  with  fountain,  river,  and 
sea.  At  the  end  is  added  an  injunction  to  worship 
(proskuntin)  ^  and  honour  the  Holy  Mother  of  God. 

*  The  kind  of  worship  implied  by  this  won),  as  it  will  be 
remembered,  is  what  the  CIreek  Church  allowed  to  be  paid 
to  saints,  or  to  the  holy  im.-ii;es,  and  is  carefully  distinguishol 
from  latreia,  the  service  due  to  God  alone.  The  other  word 
iJamascenus  uses  in  the  text  is  a  general  term  for  honour  or 
reverence.     I    mention    this,   because   the    writer    in    Ccillicr's 


70  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

The  third  and  longest  of  the  series,  the  "  De  Fide 
Orthodoxa,"  is  perhaps  the  most  important  of  all 
John's  writings,  and,  in  some  respects  one  of  the 
most  important  works  that  have  come  down  to  us 
from  Christian  antiquity.  For  it  is  the  first  complete 
"  Body  of  Divinity "  that  we  possess,  and,  as  such, 
has  had  an  influence  that  cannot  easily  be  measured 
on  the  theology  of  the  West.  It  was  made  known  to 
the  Latin  Church  by  the  version  of  Burgundio  of 
Pisa.  John  of  Brompton  fixes  the  date  with  pre- 
cision, by  saying  that  the  translation  was  made  the 
same  year  that  the  Thames  was  frozen  over — /.  ^., 
in  the  Great  Frost  of  1150.^  The  statement  that 
Peter  Lombard  had  this  version  before  him  when 
preparing  his  "  Book  of  the  Sentences  "  thus  becomes 
quite  probable.  Without,  therefore,  taking  account 
of  Aquinas,  later  on,  whose  indebtedness  to  the  work 
of  Damascenus  is  admittedly  great,  we  have  here 
a  visible  link  of  connection  between  the  Eastern 
Church  and  the  Western.  In  fact,  the  common 
division  into  four  books,  which  the  "  De  Fide "  pre- 
sents, is  thought,  not  without  good  reason,  to  have 
been  the  work  of  transcribers  seeking  to  make  it 
harmonise  more  closely,  even  in  outward  form,  with 
the  popular  textbook  of  Lombardus.  The  division 
into  four  books  seems  to  have  been  a  favourite  one 

"  Histoire  Generale  "  (1752),  torn,  xviii. ,  p.  117,  seems  to  draw 
an  inference  from  the  equivalence  of  the  Latin  words  by  which 
these  two  are  rendered,  and  which  he  quotes  : — "Nous  devons 
adorer  et  honorer  (car  il  met  ces  deux  termescommesynonymes) 
la  tres-sainte  Mere  de  Dieu." 

'  Twysden's  "Decern  Scriptores,"  p.  1036. 


THE    "  FONS    SClENlI.i:.*  7  I 

with  the  Latins  for  works  of  tliis  class,  as  we  may  sec 
by  the  "  Sententiae  "  of  Bandinus ;  which  resembled 
Peter  the  Lombard's  so  closely  in  form,  that  it  has 
been  disputed  which  of  the  two  imitated  the  other.^ 
The  division  of  Damascenus  himself  is  into  one 
hundred  chapters,  possibly  meant  to  correspond  with 
the  hundred  sections  of  his  "  De  Hxresibus  Liber;" 
and  a  separation  into  four  books  really  breaks  the 
connection  between  chapters  meant  to  be  consecu 
tive ;  as,  for  example,  the  forty-third  and  forty-fourth 
(on  the  providence  of  God,  and  on  His  foreknow- 
ledge). 

Besides  passages  from  Holy  Scripture,  which  are 
largely  quoted,  though  in  a  way  that  may  often  seem 
to  us  far-fetched,  the  chief  quotations  are  from 
Gregory  of  Nazianzus,  and  his  namesake  of  Nyssa, 
Basil,  Chrysostom,  Epiphanius,  Nemesius,  and  some 
others.  The  writings  ascribed  to  Dionysius  the 
Areopagite  should  not  be  left  out ;  in  particular,  the 
"  De  Divinis  Nominibus."  In  fact,  the  amount  of  his 
indebtedness  to  these  and  similar  writers  is  greater 
than  might  at  first  sight  be  obvious,  from  his  way  of 
using  their  language  at  times  without  troubling  to 
specify  their  names.  Thus,  for  example,  towards  the 
end  of  the  second  chapter,  when  treating  of  the 
impossibility  of  knowing  God,  or  comprehending  the 
nature  of  the  Incarnate  Word,  he  has  recourse  to  the 
illustration  used  by  the  Areopagite  ("  Div.  Nom."  c. 
ii.),  namely,  the  walking  upon  the  sea.  The  division 
into  books  being,  as  was  said  above,  in  all  j^robability 

'  Gicscicr,  1!!.,  p.  ZQi,  n. 


72  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

an  arbitrary  one,  not  contemplated  by  the  author,  we 
are  at  liberty  to  classify  the  chapters  in  larger  or 
smaller  groups,  according  to  the  subjects.  Down  to 
the  seventy-fifth  chapter  we  can  trace  a  fairly  con- 
sistent plan ;  but  in  the  remaining  chapters  it  is 
difficult  to  distinguish  any  method  or  sequence  of 
subject.  The  following  may  serve  as  an  imperfect 
outline  of  the  groundplan  of  the  work  : —  ^ 

(a)  The  impossibility  of  our  knowing  or  compre- 
hending God,  who  far  transcends  all  human  know- 
lege.  The  proof  of  God's  existence ;  His  essence, 
and  uni-ty  (Chs.  i.-v.). 

(/>)  On  the  Trinity :  the  distinct  personality  of  the 
Word  and  Holy  Spirit  (vi.-xiv.). 

(<:)  On  the  creation  :  angels,  demons ;  physical 
phenomena,  such  as  light,  fire,  winds,  &c.  (xv.-xxiv.).' 

{</)  On  man  :  his  creation  in  Paradise ;  his  facul- 
ties and  passions, — anger,  fear,  and  the  like  :  man's 
free  will  and  God's  predestination  (xxv.-xliv.). 

(e)  On  God's  scheme  for  man's  redemption  (xlv.). 

(/)  On  the  Incarnation  :  the  double  nature  of 
Christ :  various  topics  in  connection  with  that,  such 
as  Peter  the  Fuller's  addition  to  the  "  Ter  Sanctus," 
the  meaning  of  the  Dionysian  phrase,  theandric  opera- 
tion, and  the  like  (xlvi.-lxiii.). 

(yg)  Excursus  on  passions  or  affections  to  whicli 
human  nature  is  subject  (Ixiv.-lxix.),  apparently  intro- 
ductory to — 

'  Some  use  has  been  made,  in  this  arrangement,  of  an  article 
on  John  of  Damascus  in  M'Clintock  and  Strong's  Cyclopedia 
(New  York,  1868,  vol.  iv.),  in  which  an  abstract  of  the  "  De 
Fide  "  forms  the  most  prominent  part. 


THE    "FONS    SCIKNTL+:."  73 

(//)  Our  Lord's  ])assiun,  death,  and  burial  (Ixx.- 
Ixxii.). 

(/)  The  descent  into  hell  :  the  resurrection,  ascen- 
sion, and  session  at  the  right  hand  of  the  Father 
(Ixxiii.-lxxv.). 

(^)  Answers  to  objections,  chiefly  on  the  double 
nature  of  Christ  (Ixxvi.-lxxxi.). 

(/)  On  faith  :  baptism  :  i)raying  to  the  east :  the 
holy  images  :  the  Holy  Scriptures, — and  other  mis- 
cellaneous subjects  (Ixxxii.-c.). 

The  above  synopsis  may  enable  the  reader  to  form 
some  slight  idea  of  the  course  taken  by  the  author  in 
this  gr.eat  work,  and  of  the  extent  of  ground  gone 
over.  It  would  far  exceed  our  present  limits  to 
attempt  any  detailed  analysis  of  it.  A  few  indica- 
tions of  his  mode  of  treatment  must  suffice. 

In  what  he  says  at  the  beginning  on  the  existence 
and  attributes  of  God,  we  may  readily  trace  the  influ- 
ence of  writings  like  those  ascribed  to  Dionysius.  That 
is  to  say,  he  proceeds  by  way  of  negation  rather  than 
of  affirmation.  God  is  uncreate,  unchangeable,  incor- 
poreal, invisible,  incomprehensible,  and  so  on.  Hence 
there  is  nothing  that  we  can  affirm  of  God  beyond 
what  has  been  revealed  to  us  in  Holy  Scripture  (c.  ii.). 
As  evidence  of  the  existence  of  God,  he  points  to  the 
concurrent  testimony  of  those  who  have  had  a  reve- 
lation to  guide  them,  in  the  Old  and  New  Testament, 
and  of  those  who  have  had  but  the  light  of  nature,  as 
we  call  it.  Reason  comes  to  the  same  conclusion. 
1-  or  all  things  that  are,  are  either  created  or  uncreated. 
If  created,  there  must  have  been  a  Creator,  that  is. 


74  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

God;  if  uncreated,  there  could  be  in  them  no 
iiabihty  to  change  or  decay.  But  we  witness  the 
latter  all  around  us.  Therefore  the  other  alternative 
must  be  the  true  one  :  the  world  has  been  created, 
and  that  proves  a  Creator.  The  order  and  regularity 
prevailing  in  the  universe  strengthens  this  conclusion 
(c.  iii.).  What  follows  is  on  the  attributes  of  God  ; 
and  in  treating  of  this  we  have  the  same  pecuHarities 
as  at  the  first.  The  negative  method  of  shutting  out 
false  conceptions  is  pursued.  "  Whatever  we  say  of 
God  by  way  of  affirmation,"  are  his  words,  "shows 
not  His  nature,  but  only  the  surroundings  of  His 
nature.  If  you  speak  of  Him  as  good,  or  just,  or 
wise,  or  anything  else,  you  are  not  expressing  the 
nature  of  God,  but  only  its  surroundings.  Some 
things  there  are  spoken  affirmatively  of  God,  which 
have  the  force  of  negation  in  excess ;  as,  for  instance, 
when  we  speak  of  darhtess  with  God,  we  do  not 
mean  positive  darkness,  but  that  which  is  fiot  light 
from  its  being  above  light.  So  when  we  use  the 
word  light  of  Him,  we  mean  the  negation  of  dark- 
ness "  (c.  iv.).  It  will  be  noted  that  it  is  on  the 
metaphysical  or  transcendental  attributes  of  God  that 
Damascenus  dwells,  rather  than  on  the  ethical.  His 
arguments  for  the  existence  of  a  Son  of  God,  and  a 
Holy  Spirit,  may  strike  us  as  somewhat  too  much  in 
the  nature  of  inferences  from  words  and  names.  The 
Fatherhood  of  God  implies  a  Son.  The  Spirit  must 
pertain  to  Him  as  necessarily  as  the  breath  (spirit)  of 
man  which  is  in  his  nostrils  pertains  to  him  (c.  vii.). 
This  Holy  Spirit  we  may  also  call  the  Spirit  of  the 
Son,  but  we  must  not  say  that  He  is  from  the  Son 


THE    '•  FONS    SCIENTIA:.''  75 

in  the  same  way  that  we  say  the  Son  is  either  of  tlic 
Father  or  from  the  Father  ^  (c.  viii.). 

The  section  on  the  Creation,  beginniiii;  with  bk.  ii., 
ojiens  with  a  discussion  on  the  various  meanings  of 
the  word  "  age "  {ceon^  seculum).  Tlie  motive  for 
Creation  was  the  exceeding  goodness  of  the 
Ahiiighty,  whicli  could  not  rest  satificd  with  self- 
contemplation,  but  sought  for  something  external, 
to  feel  and  be  made  partaker  of  that  goodness 
(c.  xvi.).  Angels  are  incorporeal  and  immortal  not  by 
nature  but  by  the  gift  of  God.  The  Devil  and  his 
angels  were  created,  at  the  first,  good  like  the  others, 
but  fell  by  their  own  free-will  and  inclination  to  evil. 
They  have  no  power  to  harm  any  one,  except  in  so 
far  as  it  is  by  God's  permission  (cc.  xvii.,  xviii,).  In 
his  description  of  the  physical  universe  which  follows, 
we  have  a  summary  of  the  opinions  po})ularly  held, 
without  any  decision  being  given  by  Damascenus 
himself  as  to  which  he  preferred.  As  some  held, 
(referring  to  Aristotle  and  Ptolemy)  the  heavens 
encompassing  the  earth  were  spherical ;  as  others 
held  (for  example,  Chrysostom),  they  were  hemi- 
spherical. This  latter  notion,  familiar  to  us  only 
as  a  poetical  image,  when  we  talk  of  the  "vault  of 

'  This  refers  of  course  to  what  has  always  been  a  tenet  of  the 
Greek  Church,  the  single  procession  of  the  Holy  Ghost.  It  did 
not  preclude  the  expression  "  Spirit  0/  the  Son,"  or  "Spirit  0/ 
Christ  "  (as  in  Kom.  viii.  9). — For  a  minute  analysis  of  the 
Eastern  doctrine  on  this  subject,  see  Dissertation  x.,  in 
Palmer's  "Orthodox  Communion,"  before  quotetl.  The  com- 
ments of  Aquinas  and  other  Latin  doctors,  on  this  and  similar 
expressions  of  Damascenus,  arc  quoted  at  length  by  Lcquicn 
in  his  note  on  this  passage. 


76  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

heaven,"  was  gravely  maintained  by  St.  Chrysostom 
and  others,  partly  on  the  strength  of  such  passages  as 
Isaiah  xl.,  22,  "that  stretcheth  out  the  heavens  as  a 
curtain  "  (where,  instead  of  "  curtain,"'  the  Septuagint 
has  ''chamber"'  or  "vault"");  and  partly  on  the 
impossibility  of  there  being  "  ends "  of  heaven, 
according  to  a  common  Scripture  phrase,  if  the 
heaven  were  circular  (c.  xx.}.  In  treating  of  the 
works  of  creation,  he  has  an  opportunity  of  showing 
the  astronomical  attainments  which  his  biographer 
commended.  The  seven  planets,  and  their  order ; 
the  signs  of  the  zodiac ;  the  nature  of  the  star  thai 
appeared  to  the  Magi ;  the  nature  of  air  and  winds 
and  water — are  all  discussed  in  order.  "Ocean"  is 
the  refluent  stream,  compassing  the  earth  like  a 
girdle,  with  which  we  are  familiar  from  Homer.  The 
four  rivers  of  Paradise,  parting  away  from  this  circum- 
ambient ocean-stream,  are  the  Ganges,  the  Nile,  the 
Tigris,  and  the  Euphrates  (c.  xxiii.).  His  measure- 
ments of  the  continents,  which  are  given  in  stades, 
appear  to  be  taken  from  Strabo.  The  "  tree  of  life,'" 
and  the  "tree  of  the  knowledge  of  good  and  evil," 
he  interprets  in  a  manner  purely  allegorical.  The 
former  is  an  image  of  that  contemplation  of  God,  by 
virtue  of  which  we  can  rise  from  things  terrestrial  to 
the  great  Artificer  of  them  all;  the  latter,  of  that 
bodily  nourishment  and  gratification  which  passes 
away  into  corruption. 

Passing  on  to  man  (c.  xxvi.),  he  gives  what  has 
been  called  a  "  psychology  in  inuey  Contrary  to 
Plotinus,  he  makes  the  mind  of  man  not  a  distinct 
element  of  his  nature  from    the  soiil^   but  only  the 


THK    "  FONS    SCIENTI.i:."  77 

most  subtle  and  refined  part  of  the  soul.  "  For  as 
an  eye  in  the  body,  so  is  mind  in  the  soul."  The 
chapters  which  follow  treat  of  man's  faculties,  and  in 
particular  of  his  freedom  of  will.  The  fall  of  man  is 
the  subject  with  which  the  third  book  begins  (c.  .\lv.); 
but  it  is  treated  in  a  brief,  rhetorical  kind  of  way. 
Nothing  is  said  as  to  the  literal  or  figurative  meaning 
of  the  act  of  our  first  parents ;  but  some  reflections 
on  it,  in  an  oratorical  strain,  are  made  to  introduce 
the  subject  of  Christ's  incarnation.  The  personality 
and  twofold  nature  of  Christ  are  discussed  at  length, 
and  with  great  dialectic  skill.  This  naturally  leads 
the  author  to  one  of  his  favourite  topics,  the  mono- 
physite  doctrines  ;  in  handling  which  he  relates  the 
addition  to  the  "Trisagion,"  or  "Ter  Sanctus,"  made 
by  the  monophysite  patriarch  of  Alexandria,  Peter  the 
Fuller^  (c.  liv.).  A  fruitful  source  of  error  he  declares 
to  have  been  the  confusion  of  nature  with  personality 
{hypostasis).  A  man  consists  of  soul  and  body, 
which,  when  compared  with  each  other,  are  as  un- 
like as  possible.  And  yet  we  can  truly  say,  of  any 
given  man,  that  he  has  one  common  nature — human 
nature.  Because,  while  there  is  an  infinite  number  of 
individual  men,  and  no  two  of  them  exactly  alike, 
all  these  individual  personalities  (hypostases)  are  so 
t'ar  after  the  same  pattern,  that  they  all  consist  of 
soul  and  body.  Hence  it  is  allowable  to  speak  of 
one   nature    in  any   particular  man.      But  when  the 

•  The  surname  of  Gnap/tcus,  Fuller  or  Cloth-<ljcsscr,  was 
given  him  from  the  circumstance  of  his  having  woiked  at  this 
employment  when  a  monk.  He  lived  in  the  reign  of  An.ns- 
tasius  (491-5 1 S). 


78  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

same  principle  is  applied  by  heretics  to  the  twofold 
nature  of  Christ,  and  they  would  speak  by  parity  of 
reasoning  of  his  one  nature,  they  err.  For  Christ  is 
not  an  individual  of  a  species.  There  is  no  other 
like  him.  And,  therefore,  it  is  not  admissible  to 
speak  of  one  nature  in  him,  in  the  same  way  as  we 
can  speak  of  the  one  (human)  nature  shared  alike  by 
two  different  human  beings,  each  composite  in  him- 
self, as  Peter  and  Paul^  (c.  xlvii.).  The  flesh,  or 
human  nature,  was  present  by  way  of  enhypostasis"  in 
the  incarnate  Word  (c.  liii.).  The  position  held  by 
the  Virgin  Mother  comes  in  due  course  after  this, 
and  her  right  to  the  title  T/ieotokos,  or  Mother  of 
God,  is  strenuously  defended.  This  had  been  made 
a  battle-cry  in  the  Greek  Church  ever  since  the  days 
of  Nestorius,  when  the  churches  at  Constantinople 
rang  with  the  applause  of  heated  partisans,  cheering 
the  turgid  eloquence  of  a  Proclus  in  defence  of  the 
honour  of  Mary.  Nestorius  is  assailed  in  no 
measured  terms  by  John  of  Damascus  for  his 
endeavour  to  substitute  Mother  of  Christ  for  Mother 
of  God  (c.  Ivi.).  The  nature  of  the  twofold  will  and 
operation  in  Christ  is  then  brought  under  review.  As 
one  illustration  of  it,  he  cites  the  passage  where  the 
divine  and  human  will  in  Christ  seem  to  manifest 


'  As  nature  {physis)  is  here  distinguished  from  person  or 
personality  {hypostasis) ;  so  both  are  elsewhere  distinguished  by 
Damascenus  from  ousia,  which  he  explains  as  the  species  to 
which  various  individuals  belong  (c.  xlviii.) 

'  This  may  be  more  intelligible  to  some  by  its  Latin  equiva- 
lent in  the  Athanasian  Creed,  where  Christ  is  declared  to  be 
"  of  a  reasonable  soul,  and  human  flesh  subsisting:'" 


THE    "  FONS    SCIENTI.E."  79 

themselves  diversely — the  same  which  long  after- 
wards formed  the  subject  of  an  interesting  discussion 
between  Erasmus  and  Colet — the  agony  in  Gethse- 
mane,  with  its  prayer  "  Not  my  will,  but  thine,  be 
done  •'  (c.  Ixii.).  This  leads  to  a  consideration  of  the 
passions,  or  affections,  of  our  nature,  to  which,  as 
being  sinless,  Christ  in  His  humanity  could  be  sub- 
ject. Such  are  the  cravings  of  hunger  and  thirst, 
weariness  and  sorrow  and  fear.  In  like  manner  are 
we  to  understand  the  growth,  or  progress,  made  by 
Christ,  when  it  is  written  that  he  "  increased  in 
wisdom  and  knowledge"  (c.  Ixvi.).  The  feeling  of 
human  weakness  suggests  prayer.  Thus  it  is  natural 
to  turn  next  to  the  Lord's  Prayer.  Christ's  divine  and 
holy  mind  needed  nothing  to  raise  it  to  communion 
with  God.  He  needed  not  to  ask  anything  of  God, 
who  was  Himself  God.  But  having  taken  upon  Him 
our  nature  in  its  entirety,  Jesus  would  give  us  this 
example  of  prayer.  Such,  it  is  added,  was  the  reason 
for  His  praying  given  by  Christ  Himself  at  the  raising 
of  Lazarus  (c.  Ixviii.).  The  reality  of  the  human 
nature  taken  upon  Him  by  Christ  suggests  the 
(jucstion  of  its  corruptibility.  He  "saw  no  corrup- 
tion "  in  the  grave,  but  yet  His  body  could  not  be 
called  "  incorrui)tible  "  till  the  resurrection  ;  other- 
wise it  would  not  have  been  truly  our  nature  that  He 
wore.  The  third  book  ends  (c.  Ixxiii.)  with  a  short 
c(  tion  on  the  Descent  into  Hell,  and  the  proclama- 
tion of  a  Redeemer  there:  "that  unto  Him  every 
knee  should  bow,  of  beings  in  heaven,  and  on  earth, 
and  under  the  earth." 

The  fourth  book  (c.   Ixxiv.)  begins  with  the  resur- 


8o  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

rection  of  Christ;  the  meaning  of  His  eating  and 
drinking  with  the  disciples,  namely,  to  show  the  truth 
and  reality  of  His  resurrection  in  the  body ;  His 
sitting,  but  not  in  any  literal  or  local  sense,  "  at  the 
right  hand  of  the  Father."  Then  follows  a  series  of 
chapters  (Ixxvi.-lxxxi.)  of  a  retrospective  character, 
referring  again  to  the  double  nature  of  Christ  and  his 
single  personality.  x\n  answer  is  given  to  the  ob- 
jections of  those  who  reason  that,  if  there  are  two 
natures  in  the  Christ  whom  we  worship,  one  of  which 
is  human,  we  must  be  worshipping  what  is  human — 
that  is,  a  creature  (c.  Ixxvi.).  As  has  been  before 
noticed,  the  remaining  chapters  are  of  a  miscel- 
laneous description,  and  cannot  well  be  reduced  to 
any  systematic  order.  The  eighty-second  is  headed 
"  On  Faith  and  Baptism,"  but  should  more  properly 
be  entitled  "  On  Baptisni  "  alone  ;  the  following  one 
being  "  On  Faith."  The  threefold  immersion  is  con- 
sidered to  be  a  symbol  of  the  three  days  during 
which  Christ  lay  in  the  grave.  "  Remission  of  sins  is 
given  to  all  alike  by  means  of  baptism  ;  but  the  grace 
of  the  Holy  Spirit  is  given  in  proportion  to  their 
faith  and  previous  purification."  "  Oil  is  employed  at 
baptism,  as  signifying  our  anointing,  and  rendering 
us  Christ's  (*  anointed  ones  '),  and  promising  us  God's 
mercy  through  the  Holy  Spirit ;  even  as  it  was  a 
branch  of  olive-tree  that  the  dove  brought  to  those 
who  were  saved  from  the  deluge."  ^     It  is   charac- 

'  According  to  the  usage  of  the  Greek  Church,  the  candi- 
fiate  for  baptism  is  anointed  with  simple  oil,  and  then  after 
baptism  he  is  anointed  again,  this  time  with  a  chrism  com- 
pounded of  various  unguents,  as  a  token  of  the  grace  of  con- 


THE    "  FONS   SCIENTI.*:.'  8l 

terisiic  of  the  writer,  and  of  liis  time,  lliat  the  section 
on  Faith  is  much  shorter  than  that  on  the  Cross, 
which  follows.  The  cross,  he  says,  is  the  sign  that 
distinguishes  the  Christian,  as  the  seal  of  circum- 
cision did  the  Jew.  "  It  is  that  which  raises  up  them 
that  are  fallen,  strengthens  them  that  stand,  the  staff 
of  the  weak  ....  the  salvation  of  soul  and  body." 
Hence  we  should  worship  the  manger,  the  grotto,  the 
sepulchre,  the  very  wood  which  bore  Christ's  suffer- 
ing body.  Even  images  of  it,  in  whatever  material, 
deserve  the  same.  "  Not  that  we  pay  this  honour  to 
the  material  object  (God  forbid  !)  but  to  the  emblem, 
as  a  type  of  Christ."  "  For  if  the  very  dwelling,  the 
bed,  the  clothing,  of  those  whom  we  love  is  dear  to 
us,  how  much  more  so  should  be  the  things  belong- 
ing to  God  our  Saviour?"  (c.  Ixxxiv.)  In  our  devo- 
tions we  worship  towards  the  East,  for  we  turn  to 
the  rising  of  our  *'  sun  of  righteousness,"  and  sve  look 
with  longing  eyes  to  our  native  home,  the  Eden 
planted  in  the  East,  from  which  we  are  e.viled  for  a 
time  for  our  sins  (c.  Ixxxv.). 

'I'he  chapter  on  the  sacraments  is  among  the  most 
imjiortant  in  the  work.  After  reciting  the  goodness 
of  God  in  creating  man,  and  man's  disobedience 
which  cut  him  off  from  union  with  his  Maker,  the 
author  briefly  refers  to  the  scheme  for  our  redemption. 

firmaiion,  and  the  descent  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  It  may  be 
observed  that  by  the  phrase  extreme  unction  is  properly  meant 
last  unction,  i.t.y  last  of  the  various  ones  which  a  believer  may 
receive  during  the  course  of  his  life  ;  and  not,  as  may  some- 
times be  thought,  an  anointing  only  resorted  to  when  a  i>crson 
is  in  extremis. 

G 


82  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

whereby  we  might  once  more  become  fit  to  enjoy  the 
presence  of  God.  Now,  for  a  man  to  be  raised  to 
this  new  and  better  Hfe,  he  needs  the  regeneration 
which  shall  be  his  birth  into  it,  and  the  new  food 
which  shall  sustain  him  in  it.  Both  these  are  supplied 
us,  and  in  a  way  to  correspond  to  the  two-fold  wants 
of  our  nature.  The  double  birth  for  that  two-fold 
nature  is  in  baptism ;  wherein,  as  our  body  rises  from 
the  water,  our  soul  is  quickened  by  the  Holy  Spirit. 
The  double  food  for  the  same  composite  nature  is  in 
the  Holy  Eucharist;  wherein  the  bread  and  wine 
refresh  man's  body;  the  outpouring  of  the  Spirit,  his 
soul.  The  institution  of  the  Lord's  Supper  is  then 
related.  "  After  Christ  had  eaten  the  old  Passover 
with  His  disciples,  and  thus  fulfilled  the  old  covenant, 
He  washed  the  feet  of  His  disciples,  presenting  therein 
a  symbol  of  Holy  Baptism.  Then  He  brake  the 
bread,  and  gave  it  to  them,  saying  :  Take,  eat,  this  is 
my  body,  hivken  on  your  behalf  for  remission  of  sins. 
And  in  like  manner  he  took  the  cup,  of  wine  and 
water,  and  gave  them  to  partake  of  it,  saying:" — after- 
which  follow  the  words  of  consecration.  It  will  be 
observed  that  Damascenus  makes  the  washing  of  the 
disciples'  feet  to  have  been  before,  and  not  after,  the 
institution  of  the  Lord's  Supper,  and  that  he  uses  this 
inference  to  complete  the  parallel  with  baptism :  also, 
that  he  speaks  of  wine  and  water,  not  wine  alone,  as 
that  which  Christ  took.  To  express  the  way  in  which 
the  consecrated  elements  become  the  Body  and  Blood 
of  Christ,  he  uses  the  words  are  changed  and  ai-e 
iurjied,  and  borrows  an  illustration  from  the  natural 
processes  of  the  human  body.     "As  bread  by  eating," 


THE    "  FONS    SCIENTLIv."  S3 

lie  write?,  "  and  water  by  drinking,  are  turned  in 
course  of  nature  into  the  flesh  and  blood  of  the  eater 
and  drinker,  and  become  not  any  other  body  than 
this  latter ;  so  the  bread  of  oblation,  and  the  wine 
and  water,  are  supernaturally  changed,  through  the 
invocation  and  coming  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  into  the 
body  and  blood  of  Christ,  and  are  not  two,  but  one 
and  the  same"  (§  270).  The  comparison,  it  may 
appear  to  some,  falls  short  of  its  j)urpose.  It  is  not 
made  clearer  how  the  deified  Body  of  Christ,  or 
Christ  in  His  divine  nature,  so  absorbs  into  Himself 
the  consecrated  elements,  that  they  become  one  with 
Him.  At  the  same  time,  something  less  than  justice 
has  been  done,  by  a  distinguished  writer  of  our 
Church,  to  the  way  in  which  Damascenus  here  treats 
the  subject.  ''  What  was  worse  still,"  says  Waterland,^ 
"  after  all  these  lengths  of  fancy,  there  was  yet  a 
difficulty  remaining  which  was  altogether  insuperable. 
The  elements  were  to  be  made  the  very  deified  body 
of  Christ,  like  as  the  personal  body  in  the  womb  had 
been  made.  How  could  this  be,  without  the  like 
personal  union  of  the  elements  with  the  divinity  ? 
Here  Damascen  was  plunged,  and  attempted  not  to 
get  out,  at  that  time,  or  in  that  work.  But  in  another 
work,-  in  the  way  of  a  private  letter,  he  did  endeavour 

'   "Works"  (Oxfonl,  1843),  vol.  iii.,  p.  199. 

'^  "  Epist.  ad  Zachariam  "  (in  Migne's  ed.,  vol.  ii.,  pp.  401- 
412).  The  genuineness  of  this  is  doubted  by  Lequien,  though 
Wntcrland  thinks  the  evidence  in  favour  of  it.  Hut  the  point 
to  notice  is,  that  this  argument,  which  Waterland  says  was  not 
thought  of  till  the  writing  of  the  letter  to  Zacharias,  really  does 
nppear  in  the  "  De  Fi'le,"  as  quoted  above. 
G    2 


84  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

to  surmount  the  difficulty  by  suggesting  a  new  piece 
of  subtilty,  that  Uke  as  a  man's  body  takes  in  daily 
additional  matter,  and  all  becomes  one  and  the  same 
body,  so  our  Lord's /^r^^;/^/ body  takes  in  all  the  7ieiu- 
inade  bodies  of  the  Eucharist ;  and  thus,  by  a  kind 
of  growth  or  augmentation,  all  become  one  and  the 
same  personal  body  of  Christ.  A  marvellous  thought ! 
But  he  was  wedded  to  a  new  scheme."  This  *'  new 
scheme,"  of  which  Waterland  makes  John  of  Damascus 
a  votary,  was  the  cause  of  image-worship.  Upon 
this,  in  fact,  Waterland  lays  the  blame  of  much  of 
the  innovation  in  theory  which  about  this  time  began 
to  prevail  respecting  the  Holy  Eucharist.  "The 
bread  and  wine,"  Damascenus  goes  on  to  say  (§  271), 
"  is  not  a  type  of  the  body  and  blood  of  Christ :  God 
forbid  !  but  the  very  deified  body  of  the  Lord." 
Commenting  upon  language  like  this,  Waterland 
tells  us  that  "  the  next  time  this  new  doctrine 
appeared  upon  the  stage  was  in  the  service  of  image- 
worship,  then  creeping  into  the  Church.  They  who 
opposed  that  innovation,  kept  up  the  ancient  principle 
with  regard  to  the  elements  of  the  Eucharist  as 
symbols^  figures,  images ;  pleading  that  our  Lord  had 
left  no  visible  image  of  Himself,  His  incarnation, 
passion,  sacrifice,  &c.,  but  that  of  the  Eucharist.  In 
reply  to  that  plea,  the  innovators  remonstrated  against 
the  symbolical  nature  of  the  Eucharist,  contending 
that  the  consecrated  elements  were  no  images^  typ^s^ 
or  figures^  but  the  very  body  and  blood  of  Christ, 
literally  so."^     Near  as  the  language  of  Damascenus 

'    "  Epist.  ad  Zachaiiam,"  p.  197. 


THE    "  FON'S    SCIRNTI.E."  85 

may  seem  to  go  to  the  Roman  doctrine  of  transiib- 
stantiation,  it  is  proper  to  add  that,  in  its  strict  and 
technical  sense,  that  doctrine  could  not  be  dedincd 
from  it. 

So  much  space  has  been  given  to  this  important 
chapter  of  the  "  De  Fide,"  that  what  remains  must  be 
briefly  despatched.  After  a  section  in  honour  of  ilie 
\'irgin  Mary,  vindicating  her  right  to  the  title  of 
ThcotokoSy  or  Mother  of  Clod,  the  author  passes  on  to 
a  favourite  subject  with  him,  the  worship  of  images 
(c.  Ixxxix).  He  meets  the  argument  drawn  from  the 
absence  of  any  direction  for  such  worship  in  the  Old 
Testament,  by  urging  that  it  was  the  incarnation,  the 
presence  of  God  in  visible  form  among  men,  that 
gave  a  motive  and  sanction  for  the  practice.  'J'o 
make  the  life  and  actions  of  Jesus  and  his  followers 
more  intelligible  to  the  ignorant,  the  Fathers  of  the 
Church,^  he  says,  resolved  to  set  them  forth  by  this 
means,  for  the  easier  instruction  of  such  as  could  not 
read.  At  the  same  time,  John  is  careful  to  add  that 
the  honour  we  pay  to  images  of  the  saints,  or  of  the 
Holy  Mother,  or  to  the  crucifix,  is  only  an  expression 
of  the  reverence  we  really  feel  for  what  they  represent. 
The  next  chapter  (c.  xc.)  is  on  Holy  Scripture.  The 
books  of  the  Old  Testament  he  makes  to  coincide 
in  number  with  the  letters  of  the  Hebrew  ali)habet  : 
that  is  to  say,  they  amount  to  twenty-two,  of  whit  h 
five  are  double  ones,  thus  making  twenty-seven  in  all, 

'  Lequien,  in  his  note  on  the  jiassage,  admits  that  for  llic 
first  three  ceriluries  such  a  use  of  images  (so  far  at  least  as  any 
adoration  of  ihem  went)  was  unknown  ;  and  that  in  fact  it  did 
not  begin  to  developc  itself  until  the  fifth  century. 


86  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

if  counted  separately.  The  double  ones  are :  (i)  Judges 
and  Ruth  ;  (2)  First  and  Second  Books  of  Kings  (our 
I.  Samuel  and  II.  Samuel) ;  (3)  Third  and  Fourth 
Books  of  Kings  (our  I.  Kings  and  11.  Kings) ;  (4) 
First  and  Second  Books  of  Chronicles  ;  (5)  First  and 
Second  Books  of  Esdras  (our  Ezra  and  Nehemiah). 
The  Book  of  Judith  is  not  named  by  him,  while 
Ecclesiasticus  and  the  Book  of  Wisdom  are  not  made 
canonical.  In  the  New  Testament  his  list  agrees 
with  our  own,  except  that  he  adds  to  the  number  the 
Apostolical  Canons,  drawn  up,  as  he  supposes,  by 
Clement.  Returning  to  a  subject  discussed  before — 
the  twofold  nature  of  Christ — he  enquires  into  the 
application  of  various  texts  of  Scripture  to  that 
doctrine.  The  origin  of  evil  is  then  treated  of,  but 
at  no  great  length  ;  as  also  the  Manichean  theory  of 
two  co-ordinate  principles,  one  good,  the  other  bad 
(cc.  xcii.,  xciii.)  In  what  he  says  of  the  Sabbath 
(c.  xcvi.),  there  are  some  striking  remarks,  coupled 
with  much  that  is  merely  fanciful.  God,  knowing  the 
coarse  and  fleshly  nature  of  the  people  of  Israel,^ 
ordained  for  them  this  outward  observance,  that  their 
slaves  and  cattle  might  rest  as  well  as  they.  Had 
they  been  able  to  realise  the  higher  position  of  sons, 
and  not  servants,  of  God,  the  Israelites  would  not 
have  been  thus  commanded  to  set  apart  a  fraction  of 
their  time  for  the  special  service  of  Him  to  whom 
they  owed  all.  In  this  respect,  as  in  others,  the  law 
was  fiot  made  for  a  righteous  man,  but  for  the  lawless 

'  In  taking  this  tone,  Damascenus  may  remind  us  of  Dean 
Colet's  "  Letters  to  Radulphus"  on  the  same  subject. 


THE    "  FONS    SClENTIyt."  87 

and  disobedient  (i.  Tim.  i.,  9);  in  evidence  of  wliich 
we  may  observe  that  Moses  anil  Elijah,  in  their  lasts 
of  forty  days,  must  liave  included  Sabbaths,  on  which 
the  law  forbade  men  to  fast.  Hence  he  argues  that, 
for  the  Christian,  the  letter  of  the  precept  is  to  be  ex- 
changed for  the  law  of  liberty.  As  circumcision  is 
spiritualised  for  the  Christian,  so  is  the  Sabbath ; 
which  he  observes  on  the  recurrence  of  that  true  and 
only  perfect  day  of  rest  for  humanity,  that  first  day  of 
the  week,  when  Christ  by  his  resurrection  oi)ened  out 
for  us  the  inheritance  of  the  saints. 

The  subject  of  the  next  chapter  (c.  xcvii.)  is 
Virginity  ;  which  Damascenus,  as  might  be  expected, 
exalts  above  the  married  state.  Marriage  is  honour- 
able, but  the  other  excels  it :  the  one  is  a  human,  the 
other  an  angelic,  mode  of  life.  From  a  comparison 
of  Gen.  vii.,  7,  "And  Noah  went  in,  and  his  sons, 
and  his  wife,  and  his  sons'  wives  with  him,  into  the 
ark,"  with  Gen.  viii.,  16,  *' Go  forth  of  the  ark,  thou, 
and  thy  wife,  and  thy  sons,  and  thy  sons'  wives  with 
thee " — he  draws  the  strange  inference  (in  which, 
however,  he  is  not  alone  among  ancient  expositors), 
that  a  separation  of  sexes  in  the  ark  is  j)ointed  at  by 
the  order  of  the  words  in  the  former  passage,  to  be 
discontinued  on  their  leaving  the  ark.^ 

After  two  short  chapters  on  Circumcision  and  Anti- 
Christ,  the  work  ends  with  a  final  one  (c.  c.)  on  the 
Resurrection.     In  it  he  sums  up  the  Scriptural  argu 

'  The  order  in  tla-  eighteenth  verse,  in  which  their  departure 
from  the  ark  is  mentioned,  is  the  same  as  tliat  in  vii.  7  ;  which 
seems  to  neutralize  whatever  force  the  inference  might  have 
had. 


88  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

ments  for  a  resurrection  of  the  body,  and  for  our 
personal  identity  being  unchanged.  The  conclu- 
sions drawn  by  St.  Paul  from  the  analogy  of  nature 
(i.  Cor.,  XV.,  35-38)  are  repeated  and  enforced;  and 
with  the  following  words  Damascenus  concludes : 
"Wherefore  we  shall  rise  again,  with  our  souls  united 
again  to  their  bodies,  now  made  incorruptible  and 
putting  off  decay,  and  shall  stand  before  the  dread 
tribunal  of  Christ.  Then  shall  the  Devil,  and  his 
angels,  and  that  man  of  his,  even  Antichrist,  and  the 
ungodly  and  sinful,  be  delivered  up  to  everlasting 
fire  :  not  a  material  fire,^  as  with  us,  but  such  as  will 
be  known  to  God.  But  they  that  have  done  good 
shall  shine  forth,  like  the  sun,  unto  eternal  life,  along 
wilhthe  angels  and  with  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ;  ever 
seeing  Him  and  seen  by  Him ;  enjoying  for  evermore 
the  happiness  that  comes  from  Him ;  praising  Him, 
with  the  Father  and  the  Holy  Spirit,  for  endless  ages 
of  ages.     Amen." 

Even  such  an  outline  as  the  above,  brief  and  sketchy 
as  it  unavoidably  is,  may  yet  be  considered  by  the 
reader  as  somewhat  tedious.  But  the  importance  of 
the  "De  Fide," or  rather,  of  that  encyclopaedic  "Source 
of  Knowledge  "  of  which  it  is  but  one  portion,  should 
be  borne  in  mind.  And  if  it  is  remembered  that  we 
have  here  the  earliest  system,  or  body,  of  Christian 
theology,  the  precursor  of  the  great  works  of  Lom- 
bardus  and  Aquinas,  we  shall  not  grudge  a  little  effort 

^  In  the  "  Dialogus  contra  Manichxos  "  (Op.  i.,  pp.  1505- 
1584),  the  nature  of  this  fire  is  more  plainly  described.  It  is 
there  said  to  be  not  material  fire,  but  the  unquenchable  flame  of 
sinful  desire. 


THE    "  FONS   SCIENTIit."  89 

to  obtain  a  passing  survey  of  such  a  monument  of 
Christian  intellect  in  the  eighth  century.^ 

'  I  regret  that  I  have  not  been  able  to  meet  with  C.  J. 
I.enstrom's  "  De  expositione  Fulei  orlhodoxa',"  Upsahv,  1S39  ; 
the  only  work  (so  far  as  I  can  judge  from  its  title)  which  i^ 
known  to  me  as  treating  at  all  fully  of  this  work  of  l)amasccnu>. 
There  is  no  copy  in  the  British  Museum  library.  The  abstracts 
of  the  '*  De  Fide'"  given  in  Ceillier  and  Herzog  are  necessarily 
very  meagre. 


90  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


CHAPTER    VIII. 

ON    THE    MAHOMETAN    CONTROVERSY. 

The  writings  which  John  of  Damascus  has  left  on 
this  subject  are  not  so  much  of  importance  from  their 
extent,  as  interesting  to  us  from  the  nearness  of  the 
author  to  the  time  when  Mahometanism  arose.  On 
this  ground  he  is  placed  by  Maracci  ^  at  the  head  of 
controversial  writers  against  Mahomet.  Besides  the 
section  (§  loi)  in  the  "  De  Haeresibus  Liber"  before 
spoken  of,  on  the  Superstitio7i  of  the  Ishmaeiites,  we 
have  two  short  dialogues  or  disputations  between  a 
Christian  and  a  Saracen  ^ — the  term  Saracen  being 
used  as  synonymous  with  Ishmaelite  and  Agarene,  to 
denote  a  descendant  of  that  Agar  who  was  sent 
"  empty  "  away  by  Sarah.  Hence  the  fanciful  de- 
rivation of  the  name  before  noticed,  as  if  it  meant 
"  Sarah's  empty  ones  "  {Sarrhas  kenoi.)^ 

^  "  Prodromus  ad  refutationem  Alcorani,"  Romae,  1691. 

^  "  Disputatio  Christiani  et  Saraceni,"  vol.  i.,  pp.  1585- 
1597,  and  another  with  the  same  title  printed  by  Migne  in 
the  "Addenda,"  vol.  iii.,  pp.  1336- 1348. 

^  The  most  probable  etymology  of  the  word  seems  to  be  that 
which  makes  it  simply  denote  "  Orientals,"  from  the  Arabic 
word  for  rising ;  though  Bochart  prefers  a  root  saraka,  de- 
noting to  plunder.  The  reference  to  Sarah  is  not,  however, 
entirely  given  up  by  modern  authorities.  See  the  article 
"Saraceni"  in  Smith's  "Dictionary  of  Geography,"  and 
Lequien's  note  on  i.,  p.  763. 


ON    THE    MAHOMETAN    CONTROVERSY.  9 1 

Damascenus  begins  by  saying  that  the  Arabians 
whom  he  designates  by  the  various  appelhitions  just 
mentioned,  were  idolaters  down  to  the  time  of 
Heraclius.  They  were  worshippers  of  the  morning 
star,  and  of  Venus,  called  in  their  own  tongue 
Chabar,  that  is,  great.  This  appears  to  be  a  correct 
statement,  so  far  as  it  goes.  "  There  is  reason  for 
believing  that  Sabeanism,  or  the  worship  of  the 
heavenly  bodies,"  says  Sir  William  Muir,i  "was  in 
Arabia  the  earliest  form  of  departure  from  the  pure 
adoration  of  the  deity.  The  book  of  Job,  many 
historical  notices,  and  certain  early  names  in  the 
Himyar  dynasty,  im])ly  the  prevalence  of  the  system. 

In  Sura  liii.  49  is  an  evident  allusion  to  the 

adoration  of  Al  Shira,  or  Sirius."  Whether  the  seven- 
times  repeated  encompassing  of  the  Kaaba,  or  sacred 
stone  of  Mecca,  by  devotees  in  their  worship,  was 
meant  to  symbolize  the  revolution  of  the  seven 
planets  round  the  sun,  is  a  disputed  point.  The 
mention  of  Venus  accords  with  what  Herodotus  tells 
us  of  Aphrodite  being  known  to  the  Arabians  under 
the  name  of  Alitta  or  Alilah.-  The  name  is  plainly 
identical  with  that  of  the  goddess  Lat,  or  Allat,  found 
in  Sura  liii.  "  What  think  ye,"  Mahomet  there  asks, 
"  of  Allat  and  Al  Uzzah,  and  Manah,  the  other  third 
goddess  ?  "  iJit  is  said  to  have  been  the  favourite 
idol  of  the  tribe  of  Hawazun,  dwelling  to  the  south- 
east of  Mecca.'     The  stone-worshij),  which   was  so 

'   "  Life  of  Mahomet,"  1858,  i.,  p.  ccxii.  and  note. 
'  Ilerod'.  I.  131  and  iii.  8.     Seldcn  would  read   •♦A'Iti   '   i" 
both  passages. 

'  Osborn's  "  Islam  under  the  Arabs,"  1876,  p.  12. 


92  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

remarkable  a  feature  in  the  early  religious  systems  of 
the  peninsula,  and  which  was  modified,  rather  than 
extinguished,  by  Mahometanism,  is  not  here  joined 
by  Damascenus  to  the  two  preceding  idolatries.  From 
the  time  of  Heraclius,  whose  reign  (611-641) 
covered  the  chief  events  of  Mahomet's  life,  Damas- 
cenus goes  on  to  say  that  these  pagan  superstitions 
were  changed.  The  new  prophet,  happening  to  meet 
with  the  scriptures  of  the  Old  and  New  Testaments, 
and  with  a  living  expounder  in  the  form  of  an  Arian 
monki  (or,  according  to  another  reading,  "with 
Hebrews,  and  so-called  Christians,  Arians  and  Nes- 
torians  ")  formed  a  composite  system  of  his  own  from 
these  various  sources.  God,  according  to  the  new 
religion,  is  the  one  Maker  of  all  things,  neither  be- 
gotten nor  begetting.  Christ  is  the  Word  and  Spirit 
of  God,  but  a  created  being  and  a  servant,  born 
without  man's  intervention  of  Mary,  who  is  identified 
with  Miriam,  the  sister  of  Moses  and  Aaron. 2  Jesus 
was  begotten  of  her  by  the  Logos,  or  Word  of 
God.  He  was  a  prophet  of  God.  But  what  the 
Jews  in  their  wickedness  crucified  was  not  Christ,  but 
a  mere  shadow.     This  form  of  Docetism,  it  may  be 


'  This  statement  may  have  arisen  from  the  story  of  his  meet- 
ing with  the  monk  Bahira,  on  one  of  his  journeys  into  Syria. 
The  story  is  discussed  by  Sir  W.  Muir  in  his  "  Life  of  Maho- 
met," i.,  p.  35. 

*  This  is  the  inference  commonly  drawn  from  the  words  of  the 
Koran,  "Mary,  the  daughter  of  Imram  "  {i.e.  Amram).  Sale 
tries  to  save  Mahomet  from  the  reproach  of  so  strange  an 
anachronism  by  giving  another  interpretation  to  the  passage. 
See  his  note  on  it  in  Sura  iii.,  and  also  Sura   xvi.,  sub  Jin. 


ON    THE    MAHOMKTAN    CONTROVERSY.  93 

ubscrvcd,  was  devised  long  before  Maliomet's  time. 
The  real  Christ  ascended  withuiit  any  such  passage 
of  death  into  heaven;  and,  when  (juestioned  by  the 
Almighty  as  to  whether  he  had  given  himself  out  to 
be  the  Son  of  God,  and  himself  God,  made  answer : 
'•  God  forbid  !  Thou  knowest  that  I  said  it  not,  nor 
disdain  to  be  Thy  servant,  ^\'icked  men  wrote  this 
statement  concerning  me,  and  they  lied  and  are 
deceived."  ^  Such  are  the  figments  contained  in  that 
l>ook  of  Mahomet,  the  Koran,  which  he  pretends  to 
have  had  delivered  to  him  by  Ciod. 

From  this  point  the  section  in  the  "  I)e  Hreresibus 
Liber"  takes  a  more  directly  controversial  tone; 
the  assertions  of  Mahometans,  and  the  replies  of 
(Christians,  being  thrown  into  an  argumentative 
lorm.  It  may  be  the  simplest  way  of  exhibiting 
these  arguments,  and  showing  the  line  taken  by 
a  Christian  apologist  in  those  days,  to  combine 
what  we  here  find  with  the  substance  of  the  two 
short  Disputations,  and  set  down  the  result  in  the 
form  of  a  debate  between  a  Christian  and  a 
Mahometan. 

Chr.  You  say  that  Mahomet  had  his  commission 
directly  from  God.  Now  what  evidence  is  there  of 
Tnis  ?  We  have  the  testimony  of  Moses  and  of  a  long 
scries  of  prophets  to  the  divine  mission  of  Christ, 
and  the  events  of  his  life  are  all  clearly  foretold  in 
I  heir  writings.  Why  has  the  same  evidence  not  been 
a'  r  ordcd  to  Mahomet  ? 

'  The  bubslancc  of  this  passapc  is  found  near  the  end  of 
Sura  V. 


94  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Mah.  God  can  do  as  seemeth  Him  best. 

Chr.  Undoubtedly  he  can.  But  if  that  is  all  that 
is  to  be  said,  tell  us  at  any  rate  more  particularly  in 
what  way  your  prophet  received  this  communication 
from  God,  in  which  you  say  his  scriptures  were 
revealed  to  him. 

Mah.  They  came  do^vn  to  him  while  sleep- 
ing. 

Chr.  Then,  if  so,  one  may  fairly  quote  the  old- 
adage,  and  call  them  "  such  stuff  as  dreams  are  made 
of."  ' 

Mah.  Let  us  leave  the  question  of  evidence  and 
come  to  doctrine,  ^^'hy  do  you  make  a  plurality  in 
the  Godhead,  and  earn  your  name  of  Hetcerists 
{"  Associators  ")  by  averring  that  Christ  is  the  Son  of 
God,  and  is  God? 

Chr.  Because  we  find  it  so  in  the  writings  of  the 
prophets,  which  you  yourselves  profess  to  receive,  and 
in  our  own  scriptures.  Further,  you  yourselves  admit 
that  God  has  a  Word  and  a  Spirit.  Now  are  these 
created  or  uncreated?  external  to  God,  or  inherent  in 
Him? 

Mah.  Suppose  I  say,  uncreated  and  inherent  ? 

Chr.  Then  you  agree  with  me,  for  whatever  is  not 
created  is  God 

Mah.  But  if  I  say,  created  and  external  ? 

^  If  the  passage  is  not  incomplete  as  it  stands — "the  say- 
ing of  the  common  proverb  is  fulfilled  respecting  him" — we 
must  suppose  the  proverb  to  be  assumed  as  too  familiarly  known 
to  need  quoting.  Probably  the  allusion  is  to  one  of  Lucian's, 
"You  tell  me  dreams,"  given  in  Erasmus's  "Adagia"  under 
the  heading  "Vanitas"  (ed.  1629,  p.  701). 


ox    THE    MAHOMETAN    CONTROVERSY.  95 

Chr.  Then,  as  none  but  God  could  create  them, 

there  must  have  been  a  time  when  God  was  without 
Word  and  without  Spirit.  Take  care  that  you  leave 
us  not  an  imperfect  and  mutilated  Godhead,  in  your 
aversion  from  the  principle  of  ''  Association." 

Mah.  But  this  is  playing  with  the  terms  we  use. 
Vou  call  your  Scriptures  the  Word  of  God.  You 
would  not  maintain  bv  that  that  they  loo  are  un- 
created. 

Chr.  Xu,  lur  inc  icnii  usee  to  Gcr.^w  tncm  is 
different.  We  call  the  Scriptures  rhemata,  not  lo^  ; 
ind  if  in  any  passage  (as  in  the  Psalm  :  Tlie  words  of 
the  Lord  an  pure  words)  the  latter  term  is  employed, 
ue account  for  it  by  saying  that  the  writer  is  speaking 
Iguratively,  and  not  with  literal  precision.  We  apply 
lOt  to  the  written  word  of  Scripture  the  title  due  to 
the  incarnate  Word  of  God. 

Mah.  '*  Incarnate  Word  of  God, '  you  say.  Now 
\i  this  Christ  of  yours  be  God,  how  should  we  read 
r  H  <  vating  and  drinking,  of  His  sleeping,  of  His 
:uci:;\  on  and  death  ? 

Chr.  I  answer :  in  respect  of  His  human  nature, 
iken  from  the  Holy  Virgin,  he  was  subject  to  those 
.rlcctions,  and  did  perform  those  acts.  But  in  so  far 
IS  He  was  the  eternal  Word  of  God,  it  was  otherwise ; 
for  that  part  of  his  nature  could  not  feel  human 
v.  eaknesses,  could  not  sleep  or  die 

Mah.  Does  not  your  worship  of  Christ  lead  to 
dolatry?  You  adore  the  cross,  a  thir::  \n  tis 
<Ietestable. 

Chr.  You,  at  any  rate,  arc  n  .    i^,:uam 

US  with  idolatr}-.     Do  you  not  -  wear  away 


96  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

the  Stone  in  your  Chabatha^  with  your  kisses  as 
devotees  ? 

Mah.  And  with  good  reason,  when  the  sacred 
associations  of  the  spot  are  considered.  That  stone 
witnessed  the  nuptials  of  Abraham  and  Agar ;  to  it 
Abraham  bound  his  camel,  when  about  to  sacrifice 
Isaac. 

Chr.  His  camel !  why  in  Scripture  (Gen.  xxii.  5), 
we  do  but  read  of  an  ass,  which  he  left  some  distance 

^  This  refers  to  the  famous  stone  in  the  Kaaba,  or  "Square," 
at  Mecca,  believed  by  Moslems  to  have  been  originally  built  by 
Seth,  and  rebuilt  after  the  deluge  by  Abraham  and  Ishmael. 
"  The  black  stone,"  says  Ockley,  "which  the  Mohammedans 
hold  in  great  reverence,  and  believe  to  be  one  of  the  stones  of 
paradise,  which  fell  down  with  Adam  from  heaven,  is  a  small 
stone  set  in  silver  and  fixed  in  the  south-east  corner  of  the 
Kaaba,  about  four  feet  from  the  ground.  It  is  said  to  be  white 
within,  but  to  have  been  turned  black  on  the  outside  by  the 
sins  of  the  people,  or  more  probably  by  the  kisses  of  the 
pilgrims." — "Hist,  of  the  Saracens,"  1847,  p.  3.  According 
to  another  account  the  stone  was  brought  to  Ishmael  by  the 
angel  Gabriel.  Tradition  said  that  the  guardianship  of  the 
temple  remained  for  many  centuries  in  the  hands  of  the  Djorho- 
mites,  a  tribe  of  Yemenite  extraction.  These  in  time  neglected 
their  charge,  and  about  A.  D.  206  the  stone  was  dislodged  from 
its  place  in  the  wall  and  buried.  A  Khozaite  woman  had 
witnessed  its  interment,  and  informed  the  chiefs  of  her  tribe. 
It  thus  came  into  their  custody  till  about  a.d.  440.  Its  sub- 
sequent history,  when  it  passed  into  the  keeping  of  the 
Modharites,  is  told  at  length  by  Major  Osbom,  "  Islam  under 
the  Arabs,"  p.  76,  sqq.  See  also  the  "  Vie  de  Mohammed," 
translated  from  the  Arabic  text  of  Abou'lfeda  by  A.  N. 
Des  Vergers,  1837,  p.  105.  Mahomet's  first  impulse  was  to 
abolish  this  stone-worship  ;  and  it  is  interesting  to  speculate 
what  might  have  ensued  had  he  made  Jerusalem  his  sacred 
centre,  instead  of  Mecca  with  its  Kaaba. 


ON    THE    MAHOMETAN    CONTROVERSY.  97 

off,  in  charge  of  his  young  men.  The  place,  more- 
over, was  well  wooded  :  at  least,  Abraham  could 
cleave  wood  there  for  a  burnt-oflering;  and  this 
accords  but  ill  with  the  situation  of  your  Kaaba. 

Mah.   For  all  that,  it  is  Abraham's  stone. 

Chr.  Grant  that  it  is  ;  can  you  kiss  it  in  devotion, 
because,  forsooth,  Abraham  tied  his  camel  to  it,  or 
even  for  some  less  decent  association ;  and  then 
blame  us  for  bowing  down  before  the  cross  of  Christ? 

Mah.  This  mention  of  the  cross  brings  us  to  what 
you  say  of  Christ's  suffering.  Now  do  you  hold  that 
those  who  do  the  will  of  God  are  good  or  bad  ? 

Chr.  I  see  your  art.  If  I  say  good,  you  will  ta.\ 
me  with  approving  the  conduct  of  the  Jews,  who  ful- 
filled the  will  of  God  in  slaying  Jesus :  if  bad,  then  I 
should  seem  to  make  Christ  sutifer  unwillingly,  or  he 
too  would  come  under  that  head. 

Mah.     Such  was  my  meaning. 

Chr.  Then  let  us  be  clear  about  the  meaning  of 
this  ambiguous  term  "will."  I  hold  that  it  often 
stands  for  ''  toleration  "  or  "  long-suffering." 

Mah.     How  so  ? 

Chr.  .Suppose  that  God  says,  Thou  shalt  not 
steal ;  thou  shalt  not  kill.  As  He  is  Almighty,  His 
.'///cannot  be  baffled.  Yet  it  is  evident  that  either 
of  us  could,  if  we  chose,  rise  up  this  very  moment, 
and  steal  or  kill.  If  this  is  so,  then  are  we  not  bouiul 
to  admit,  that  by  God's  will  may  sometimes  be  meani 
His  endurance,  and  that  in  this  sense  the  wicked  may 
be  doing  what  he  endures,  and  so  far  fulfilling  His  will? 

This  may  suffice  as  a  specimen  of  the  way  in  which 
h 


98  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

John  of  Damascus,  or  one  of  his  disciples,  might  have 
argued  with  a  Mahometan  of  his  time.  It  should  be 
stated  that,  while  the  substance  of  the  various  argu- 
ments is  given  above,  an  effort  has  been  made  to 
string  them  together  more  connectedly,  and  to  soften 
off  abrupt  transitions.  The  latter  part  of  the  section 
in  the  "De  Hseresibus  Liber"  consists  of  an  invective 
against  the  immoral  conduct  of  Mahomet  himself,  in 
the  marriages  he  contracted,  and  the  precepts  in  the 
Koran  by  which  he  strove  to  screen  his  own  delin- 
quencies while  permitting  indulgences  to  others. 
The  special  reference  is  to  the  subject-matter  of  the 
4th  Sura,  and  to  the  story  of  Zeid's  wife,  alluded  to 
in  Sura  xxxiii.  The  monstrous  legends  also  found 
in  the  Koran,  or  in  the  writings  of  its  expounders, 
are  held  up  to  ridicule ;  such  as  that  of  the  she-camel, 
spoken  of  in  the  7th  Sura,  which  drank  up  whole 
rivers,  and  could  satisfy  a  whole  tribe  with  its  milk. 
In  this  instance,  perhaps,  the  commentators  have 
more  to  answer  for  than  the  Koran  itself 

The  least  satisfactory  feature,  as  some  may  think, 
in  the  aspect  of  religious  controversy  here  presented 
to  us,  is  the  playing  on  words — for  it  scarcely 
deserves  to  be  called  by  any  better  name.  It  seems 
a  childish  dilemma  in  which  to  place  an  opponent, 
to  make  him  own  that,  if  Christ,  the  Word  of  God, 
were  not  uncreated,  there  must  have  been  a  time 
v.'hen  God  was  Wordless  and  Spiritless.  We  miss,  also, 
Vv'hat  might  fairly  have  been  expected  from  the  great 
•champion  of  "  image -worship,"  a  justification  of  the 
limits  within  which  the  Christian  might  lawfully  avail 
himself  of  images  or  symbols,  as  a  help  to  devotion, 


ON    THE    MAHOMETAN    CONTROVERSY.  99 

without  being  open  to  the  charge  of  idolatr)'.  In- 
stead of  this,  he  passes  at  once  to  the  ///  quoquc 
argument  of  the  conduct  of  Mahometans  themselves 
at  the  Kaaba.  The  defect  is  suppHcd  in  a  modern 
discussion,  supposed  to  be  held  between  a  Mufti  and 
a  Christian  priest,^  which  it  is  interesting  to  compare 
with  this  earlier  one. 

The  Mufti  has  been  indignantly  repudiating  the 
charge  of  idolatry  brought  against  his  own  people,  on 
the  ground  that  they  are  in  the  habit  of  making  pros- 
trations before  the  entrance  of  their  mosques,  over 
which  are  inscribed  certain  verses  of  the  Koran.  This, 
he  declares,  is  done,  not  by  way  of  adoration  to  the 
written  te.xt,  but  as  a  means  of  elevating  the  mind  of 
the  worshipper  to  God. 

Eh,  bien  I  replies  the  Christian  priest,  I'usage 
que  vous  faites  de  ces  signes  est  celui  que  nous 
faisons  de  nos  images.  Nous  n'adorons  pas  les 
images  ;  nous  nous  en  servons  pour  mieux  penser 
aux  objets  qu'elles  reprc>entent.  Les  images  sont 
surtout  le  livre  du  peuple.  Quand  quekju'  un  voit  la 
croix,  il  se  rappelle  \  I'instant  la  vie  et  la  mort  de 
Jesus-Christ,  plus  vite  que  toi  et  que  moi,  qui  lisons 
I'Evangile. 

MupHTi.     C'est  ainsi  ? 

Pr£:tre.     Ni  plus  ni  moins. 

MuPHTi.  Je  t'assure  que  tu  Ibves  un  grand 
scandale  h.  mes  yeux.  Maintenant,  j)artout  ou  j'irai, 
je  dirai  que  les  Chretiens  ne  sont  pas  idolatres. 

'   "Soirees  de  Carthage,"  par  M.  I'AbW  F.  Bourgadc,  1847. 
The  author  of  this  work,  and  its  sequel,  '*  \a  Clef  du  Koran,** 
1852,  was  almoner  of  the  Chaj^cl  of  St.  Louis  at  Carthage. 
H    2 


lOO  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

The  author,  the  Abbe  Bourgade,  assures  us  that 
this  was  the  very  answer  he  had  from  two 
Mahometans  of  Algiers,  to  whom  he  had  given  the 
same  explanation,  while  they  were  one  day  dis- 
cussing religious  topics  on  board  the  Josephine^  in 
1846.  To  the  ardent,  but  ill-informed  mind  of 
Mahomet,  the  nature  of  the  first  impressions  he 
received  from  Christianity  was  a  matter  of  the  utmost 
importance.  The  apparently  idolatrous  character  of 
Christian  worship  in  his  day  was  one  grievous 
stumbling-block  ;  the  apparent  obscuration,  of  the 
unity  of  the  Godhead  was  another.  "  Believe,  there- 
fore, in  God  and  His  apostles,"  are  his  words  towards 
the  end  of  the  4th  Sura,  "  and  say  not  there  are  three 
Gods.  Forbear  this  ;  it  will  be  better  for  you.  God 
is  but  one  God." 

"  It  appears  probable,"  says  Sir  William  Muir,^ 
"  that  the  creed  of  the  Christians  of  his  day  was 
understood  by  Mahomet  to  be,  that  Mary  was  one  of 
the  persons  in  the  Trinity.  This  probably  arose  from 
the  worship  paid  to  the  Virgin  by  the  Eastern 
Churches,  and  from  the  statements  of  Mahomet's 
Jewish  followers — themselves  imperfectly  acquainted 
with  Christianity.  Had  the  true  doctrine,"  he  adds, 
*'  regarding  the  Virgin  Mary  been  rightly  placed 
before  Mahomet,  together  with  that  of  the  spiritual 
and  eternal  generation  of  the  Son  of  God,  and  shown 
to  be  necessarily  deducible  from  the  legitimate  con- 
struction of  the  Scriptures  acknowledged  by  him  to 
be  inspired,  could  he  have  refused  to  approve  those 
doctrines  ?  " 

'    "The  Koran,"  1878,  p.  179. 


OS    THE    MAHOMETAN    CONTROVERSY.  1 01 

It  raises,  indeed,  many  sorrowful  reflections,  to 
think  how  greatly  the  history  of  the  world  might 
have  been  changed,  had  the  Christian  fliith  been  pre- 
sented to  the  mind  of  the  Arabian  enthusiast  in  a 
purer  form.  But,  at  any  rate,  the  fact  of  there  being 
such  weak  points  must  not  be  forgotten,  and  must  be 
taken  count  of  as  we  try  to  estimate  the  strength  of 
the  [)osition  taken  up  by  John  of  Damascus. 


102  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


CHAPTER     IX. 

SERMONS. 

The  work  of  John  of  Damascus  as  a  preacher  does 
not  fill  any  great  space  in  the  record  left  us  of  his 
labours.  His  biographer,  in  the  vague  manner  which 
has  disappointed  us  before,  merely  says  in  passing 
that  he  "  moreover  composed  discourses  for  the 
joyous  festivals "  (c.  xxxiii.) ;  but  when  and  where 
they  were  delivered,  we  are  not  told.  In  fact,  the 
circumstance  is  mentioned  before  he  relates  his 
ordination ;  and  the  very  word  employed,  which  we 
have  rendered  "composed"  (literally  "put  forth") 
leaves  it  doubtful  whether  the  writer  meant  that 
John  of  Damascus  really  dehvered  them,  or  merely 
wrote  them,  as  rhetorical  or  devotional  exercises. 
The  expression  is  such  as  might  have  been  used  by 
one  who  had  glanced  at  this  portion  of  his  writings, 
and  took  no  pains  to  go  more  deeply  into  the  matter. 
When  we  examine  the  sermons  themselves,  there  is 
not  much  more  to  satisfy  us,  in  the  way  of  exact  in- 
formation. In  the  title  to  one  of  them — that  on  the 
"Withered  Fig-tree" — the  author  is  styled  "Priest 
of  the  Holy  Resurrection  of  Christ  our  God  ;"  and, 
coupling  this  with  the  statement  that  he  was  ordained 
by  John,  Bishop  of  Jerusalem,  we  may  infer  that  he 
was  then  serving  as  priest  of  a  church  dedicated  by 
that  name  in  Jerusalem.     From  the  language  used  in 


SERMONS. 


103 


another — on  the  "Transfiguration" — wo  might  na- 
turally conclude  that  it  was  delivered  in  the  church 
built  on  Mount  Tabor  to  commemorate  that  event. 
And,  once  more,  from  an  expression  which  occurs  in 
the  second  sermon  on  the  "  Passing  of  the  Virgin 
Mar>',"  we  may  suppose  that  he  had  continued  his 
labour  of  preaching  to  the  limits  of  old  age.  For 
he  there  speaks  of  "  bringing  flowers  to  the  Queen 
in  the  winter  of  his  eloquence,  and  prei)aring  his 
aged  speech  to  vie  with  others  in  pronouncing  her 
encomiums."  There  being  thus  little  to  give  any 
local  colouring  or  accidental  interest  to  the  dis- 
courses, we  must  be  content  to  study  them  simply  as 
compositions,  in  which  we  may  trace  the  reflection  of 
the  author's  mind.' 

'  Under  the  general  heading  of  "  IIomiHx,"  theie  are  in- 
cluded in  Lequien's  edition  (Migne,  vol.  iii.,  pp.  544-816), 
thirteen  discourses  and  a  fragment  of  a  fourteenth  ;  the 
genuineness  of  some  of  them  being  more  than  doubtful.  The 
first  in  order,  and  one  of  the  most  important,  is  that  on  the 
Transfiguration.  The  second,  less  striking  in  style,  but  in  many 
respects  a  very  interesting  one,  is  on  the  Withered  Fig  Tree. 
The  third,  which  has  been  sometimes  inclu<led  among  the 
works  of  St.  Chr)'sostom,  though  apparently  without  sufficient 
reason,  is  on  Good  Friday.  The  fourth,  and  longest  of  all, 
and  one  about  the  genuineness  of  which  there  can  be  no  doubt, 
is  on  Holy  Saturday.  Then  come  two  on  the  Annunciation  ; 
of  which  the  first  is  only  found  in  a  Latin  version,  while  the 
genuineness  of  both  is  discredited.  Of  the  remaining  seven 
two  are  on  the  Nativity  of  the  Virgin  Mary  ;  three  on  her 
death,  or  "  falling  asleep  ;"  one  is  a  panegyric  on  St.  Chrysos- 
tom  ;  and  the  host  a  similar  one  on  St.  Harbara.  The  short 
fragment  counted  as  a  fourteenth  piece  hardly  deserves  separate 
notice,  being  probably  only  a  fragment,  in  altered  guise,  of  one  of 
the  sermons  on  the  Nativity  of  the  Virgin  already  mentioned. 


104  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

The  first  in  order,  as  we  now  have  them,  is  that 
on  the  Transfiguration  of  our  Lord.  Lequien  thinks 
that  it  was  dehvered  in  the  church  erected  on 
Mount  Tabor  to  commemorate  that  event.  And 
certainly,  though  there  does  not  appear  to  be  any- 
thing in  the  language  employed  which  absolutely 
requires  it,  this  supposition  would  accord  very  well 
with  the  general  tone  of  the  discourse.  Tabor,  as  is 
well  known,  was  from  the  earliest  ages  believed  to 
have  been  the  scene  of  the  Transfiguration.  No 
mountain,  it  is  agreed  by  all,  could  be  more  suitable 
for  such  an  event,  from  its  isolation,  its  solemn 
beauty,  and  the  grandeur  of  the  widespread  view  from 
its  summit.  But  the  ascertained  fact  that  in  our 
Saviour's  time  it  was  crowned  by  a  Roman  fortress, 
has  caused  this  belief  to  be  now  given  up.  In  the 
monastic  ages,  however,  there  was  no  misgiving  on 
the  subject.  It  was  then  a  favourite  resort  for 
hermits.  St.  Jerome  had  spoken  of  it  unhesitatingly 
as  the  scene ;  and  thus  "  it  was  one  of  the  shrines, 
from  the  earliest  period,  which  pilgrims  to  the  Holy 
Land  regarded  it  as  a  sacred  duty  to  honour  with 
their  presence  and  their  prayers. "^  At  the  present 
day,  both  the  Latin  and  Greek  Christians  maintain 
periodical  services  here.  If  it  were  indeed  to  a  con- 
gregation gathered  together  on  this  mountain  that  St. 
John  of  Damascus  spoke,  his  words  must  have  come 
with  vivid  interest  and  power,  as  he  thus  began  : — 

'^  Come,  ye  assembly  of  God-loving  people,  and  let 


'    Professor    Hackett  :    Art.    in   Smith's   "Dictionary  of  the 
Bible." 


SERMONS.  105 

US  hold  high  festival  this  day.  Come,  and  let  us  keep 
the  feast  this  day  along  with  the  festal  Powers  above. 
For  they  are  come  hither  to  join  in  the  festival  with 
us.  Come,  let  us  raise  the  shout  of  joy  with  our  lips, 
as  with  well-tuned  cymbals.  Come,  let  us  exult  in 
spirit.  For  to  whom  belong  feast  and  solemnity? 
To  whom  belong  joy  and  gladness,  if  not  to  them 
that  fear  the  Lord,  that  worship  the  Trinity,  that 
revere  the  Son  and  Holy  Spirit  with  the  Father 
co-eternal,  that  with  heart  and  mind  and  mouth 
confess  the  Godhead  revealed  to  us  indivisibly  in  three 
Persons,  that  both  know  and  affirm  that  Christ  is  the 
Son  of  God,  and  very  God,  revealed  to  us  in  two 
natures,  without  division  and  without  confusion,  and 
with  their  natural  properties?  For  us  is  gladness 
and  every  festal  joy.  It  is  for  us  that  Christ  has 
ordained  the  festivals  ;  for  there  is  no  joy  to  the  "wickeJ. 
Let  us  lay  aside  the  cloud  of  every  grief  that  darkens 
our  mind,  and  suffers  it  not  to  be  raised  on  high. 
Let  us  make  light  of  all  earthly  things,  for  our 
citizenship  is  not  on  the  earth.  Let  us  direct  our 
thoughts  to  heaven,  from  whence  also  we  look  for  the 
Saviour^  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ.' 

The  reader  will  not  fail  to  be  struck  with  the  way 
in  which  the  preacher  brings  the  controverted  topic 
of  Christ's  twofold  nature  even  into  this  exordium. 
After  enlarging  on  the  same  subject  (c.  ii.),  he  quotes 
the  words  of  the  Psalmist,  Tabor  and  Hermon  shall 
rejoice  in  thy  name ;  and  applies  them  in  the  usual 
manner.  Hermon  had  its  day  of  rejoicing  when 
Christ  was  baptized  in  the  neighbouring  Jordan. 
Now  Tabor  has  its  day  of  honour,  **  that  divine  and 


Io6  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

holy  mountain,  towering  on  high  no  less  by  its  glory 
and  splendour  than  by  its  cloud-capt  loftiness.  It 
vies  with  heaven  in  the  grace  conferred  upon  it. 
For  while  in  heaven  the  very  angels  avail  not  to  gaze 
unwaveringly  on  Christ,  here  the  chosen  apostles  see 
Him  shining  forth  in  the  glory  of  His  kingdom. 
On  this  mountain  an  assurance  is  given  of  the  resur- 
rection of  the  dead ;  and  Christ  is  shown  to  be  Lord 
both  of  the  quick  and  dead,  by  bringing  forth  as  a 
witness  Moses  from  the  dead,  and  Elias  still  alive, — 
him  who  of  old  sped  away  to  the  celestial  regions  in 
his  chariot  of  fire "  (c.  iii. ).  He  then  goes  on  to 
contrast  Tabor  and  Sinai.  When  the  law  was  given 
on  Sinai,  there  was  cloud  and  storm  and  darkness, 
all  symbols  of  the  impenetrable  mystery  in  which  the 
Divine  Giver  of  the  law  was  shrouded.  But  now,  on 
Mount  Tabor,  all  is  full  of  light  and  radiance.  For 
the  Son  is  come  from  the  bosom  of  the  Father  to 
reveal  His  glory.  "  And  His  countenance  shines  as 
the  sun  ;  for  it  beams  forth  in  hypostatic  union  with 
immaterial  light;""  and  hence  He  is  become  the  Sun 
of  righteousness.     But    His  garments  are  white  as 

'  This  passage  may  serve  as  a  specimen  of  the  way  in  which 
the  Greek  text  of  Damascenus  still  needs  revision.  The  read- 
ing here  is  0turi  yap  dvXy  TavriZtrai  KaO'  vTrbaraaiv.  In  a 
fragment  of  a  Catena  on  St.  Matthew,  given  later  on  in  the 
same  volume  of  Migne's  edition  (col.  1408),  it  is  ^a»r/  yap  aXX(/j 
ravTiZ^iTai  Ka9'  viroaTaffiv.  No  one,  I  suppose,  would  hesitate 
to  replace  aW^^  in  the  latter  passage  by  avXif)  from  the  former, 
while  for  TavriCtrai  in  both  I  have  ventured  to  read  avya^irai. 
Even  if  TavTiZ,iTai  could  have  the  meaning  of  **  is  made 
identical  with,"  that  sense  is  not  wanted  ;  the  following  words 
sufficiently  explaining  what  kind  of  union  is  meant. 


SERMONS.  107 

sncni';  for  ihcy  arc  glorified  by  their  office  of  unfolding ; 
not  by  being  united  with  him,  as  that  which  is  worn ; 
not  in  the  way  of  hypostatic  union  "  (c.  iv.).  **Come, 
then."  he  continues,  "  let  me  set  before  you  a  repast 
of  Holy  Scripture,  seasoned  with  the  grace  of  the 
Sjiirit ;  not  luxuriating  in  the  arts  of  Grecian  elo- 
quence, seeing  that  I  am  not  overmuch  versed  in 
the  knowledge  of  it,  but  relying  on  the  grace  of 
Him  who  gives  even  the  stammerer  a  clear  tongue 
of  utterance  "  (c.  v.). 

He  then  proceeds  to  relate  the  circumstances  pre- 
ceding the  Transfiguration  : — the  question,  W/tom  do 
men  say  that  /,  the  Son  of  /nan,  am  ?  put  to  the  dis- 
ciples in  Cnesarea  Philippi,  when  He,  the  Great 
Teacher,  •'*  had  taken  a  rock  for  His  temporary  chair, 
Himself  the  Rock  of  life ; "  the  answer  of  Peter,  and 
the  like.  It  is  to  the  faith  by  which  St.  Peter  spoke 
that  the  words  are  applied — on  this  rock  I  icill  build 
my  church.  "  This  is  the  unwavering  and  unshaken 
faith,  on  which,  as  on  a  rock,  the  Church  is  founded  ; 
of  which  rock  thou  art  become  the  namesake."  But, 
though  the  words  of  Christ's  promise  are  thus  inter- 
l)reted,  not  of  the  apostle  personally,  but  of  the  faith 
shown  in  his  answer,  the  language  in  which  he  is 
aftenvards  addressed  is  sufficiently  lofty  : — "  For  this 
I>eace  of  the  Church  do  thou  supplicate  Christ,  who 
is  her  spouse  undefiled,  who  appointed  thee  to  hold 
the  keys  of  the  kingdom  of  heaven,  who  bestowed 
on  thee  the  power  of  binding  and  loosing  men's 
liabilities,    whom   with   divine    utterance    thou    pro- 

rlaimedst  Son  of  the  living  God For  in  truth 

He  is  God  and  man  ;  called  the  son,  not  of  Peter, 


Io8  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

nor  of  Paul,  nor  of  Joseph,  nor  of  any  other  father, 
but  of  man  :  for  He  had  not  a  father  on  earth,  who 
had  not  a  mother  in  heaven  "  (c.  vi.). 

Reasons  are  next  given  for  the  use  of  the  expres- 
sion, "  there  are  so?ne  standing  here  which  shall  not 
taste  of  death,"  &c.,  on  the  ground  that  if  one  only 
had  been  singled  out,  the  words  would  have  been 
interpreted  in  the  same  sense  as  the  declaration  in 
St.  John  xxi.  22,  and  referred  to  the  survival  of 
St.  John ;  whereas  if  all  had  been  used  instead  of 
S077ie^  the  unworthy  Iscariot  would  have  been  included 
(c.  vii.).  The  apparent  discrepancy  between  St.  Mat- 
thew and  St.  Luke  as  to  the  time,  "  after  six  days " 
and  "after  eight  days,"  is  explained  in  the  simple 
and  natural  way  of  supposing  that  one  evangelist 
counts  both  extremes  in,  the  other  neither.  But  not 
content  with  this,  the  preacher  goes  on  to  display  the 
symbolic  properties  of  both  these  numbers  in  a  way 
that  reminds  us  of  the  Nu7neroriim  Mysteria  of  Petrus 
Bungus.  Six  is  a  perfect  number,  for  it  is  made  up 
of  the  sum  of  its  factors,  and  eight  is  the  number  of 
the  resurrection.  In  connection  with  this  he  quotes 
the  beautiful  application  made  by  Nazianzen  of  the 
passage  in  Ecclesiastes  (xi.  2),  "  Give  a  portion  to 
seven,  and  also  to  eight";  where  seven^  the  number 
of  the  week,  is  interpreted  of  the  affairs  of  this  life 
which  demand  our  care,  while  eighty  denoting  the 
recurrence  of  the  first  day  over  again,  is  interpreted 
of  the  life  to  come,  which  also  must  have  its  portion 
in  our  thoughts  (c.  viii.).  The  reason  for  the  choice 
of  Peter,  James,  and  John,  to  be  witnesses  of  the 
Transfiguration,  is  then  given ;   as  also  the  reason  of 


SERMONS. 


09 


a  mountain  being  the  chosen  spot.  A  mountain,  as 
rising  high  above  the  level  of  the  earth,  is  a  symbol 
of  that  charity,  or  love,  which  is  the  crowning  Chris- 
tian grace.  To  readers  of  the  works  bearing  the 
name  of  Dionysius  the  Arcopagite,  this  thought  will 
be  a  familiar  one.  Through  the  successive  stages  of 
I)urification  and  illumination  the  soul  must  rise  to  its 
perfection ;  as  through  faith  and  hope  we  reach  the 
empyrean  summit  of  love.  "Wherefore,"  St.  John 
of  Damascus  continues,  "  we  should  leave  to  the 
earth  what  is  earthy,  and  surmount  this  Iwdy  of  our 
humiliation,  and  borne  on  high  to  the  lofty  and  divine 
watch-tower  of  love,  there  gaze  on  what  had  baffled 
our  gaze.  For  he  who  has  attained  to  the  eminence 
of  love,  being  in  a  measure  out  of  himself,  discerns 
the  unseen,  and  by  soaring  above  the  gloom  of  this 
corporeal  cloud  that  hovers  over  him,  and  reaching 
the  clear  upper  air  of  the  soul,  fixes  a  more  piercing 
gaze  upon  the  Sun  of  Righteousness,  even  though 
unable  as  yet  to  be  fully  sated  with  the  spectacle." 
And  on  the  words  apart  and  to  pray,  brought  to- 
gether by  joining  the  accounts  of  the  first  and  third 
evangelist,  he  adds  the  pithy  comment,  "  For  quietude 
is  the  mother  of  prayer ;  as  prayer  is  the  manifesta- 
tion of  divine  glory"  (c.  x.).  The  'I'ransfiguration 
itself  was  not  an  assuming  of  what  Christ  had  not 
before,  but  a  manifesting  to  the  disciples  of  that 
which  he  had ;  their  eyes  being  opened,  so  that, 
while  hitherto  but  blind,  they  were  now  enabled  to 
see  (c.  xii.).  From  the  words,  "his  face  did  shine  as 
the  sun,"  he  draws  another  illustration  of  the  topic 
ever  present  to  his  thoughts,  the  twofold   nature  of 


no  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

Christ.  For  light  was  in  existence  before  the  sun. 
*'  Even  so  Christ,  being  Light  of  light,  eternal  and 
unapproachable,  came  to  dwell  in  a  temporal  and 
created  body,  and  is  thus  one  Sun  of  Righteousness, 
one  Christ,  revealed  to  us  in  two  undivided  natures  " 
(c.  xiii.).  In  describing  the  benefits  that  the  chosen 
apostles  would  gain,  by  the  sight  of  their  predecessors 
in  God's  service,  Moses  and  Elias,  thus  glorified,  the 
preacher  allows  himself  to  be  carried  away  for  a 
moment  from  the  patient  task  of  the  expositor  : — "  It 
was  meet  that  they  should  see  this  glory  and  state  of 
freedom  of  their  own  fellow-servants  and  ministers  of 
God;  and  having  seen  it,  be  amazed  at  the  loving 
condescension  of  their  Master,  and  be  more  filled 
with  zeal,  and  become  nerved  for  the  contest.  For 
he  who  has  seen  what  are  to  be  the  fruits  of  his 
labours,  will  most  readily  venture  on  the  conflict. 
The  desire  of  gain  can  tempt  men  to  be  unsparing  of 
their  bodies.  For  soldiers,  and  athletes,  and  husband- 
men, and  merchants,  betake  themselves  cheerfully  to 
their  labours,  risking  the  ocean  billow,  and  heeding 
not  wild  beasts  or  robbers,  that  they  may  obtain  the 
longed-for  reward ;  and  the  more  they  see  those  who 
have  toiled  before  them  enjoying  their  gains,  the  more 
are  they  spurred  on  to  endure  hardships.  Even  so  will 
the  spiritual  men-at-arms,  and  athletes,  and  husband- 
men, and  merchants  of  the  Lord,  who  covet  not 
earthly  gains,  nor  aspire  after  fleeting  honours,  when 
with  their  own  eyes  they  behold  what  they  have  stored 
up  in  expectation,  and  see  those  who  have  toiled 
before  them  realising  the  delights  of  the  good  things 
they  had  hoped  for,  gird  themselves  up  more  reso- 


SERMONS.  1  I  I 

lutely  to  the  encounter.  Not  against  men,  indeed, 
are  they  drawn  up  in  battle  array,  nor  do  they  beat 
the  air;  they  bring  not  plough-o.xen  under  the  yoke, 
to  cleave  earth's  furrows  with  them,  nor  sail  over  the 
briny  sea.  It  is  against  principalities^  against poicers, 
against  the  rulers  of  the  darkness  of  this  world,  that 
they  have  to  strive.  In  being  beaten  they  rejoice  ; 
nakedness  they  count  as  riches.  To  the  surging 
billows  of  the  world,  and  to  the  spirits  of  wickedness 
that  rouse  them,  they  oppose  the  rudder  of  the  cross. 
These  latter  they  drive  away  in  the  might  of  the  Holy 
Spirit,  like  roaring  and  ravening  beasts  of  prey ;  while 
in  men's  hearts,  as  in  so  many  furrows,  they  sow  the 
word  of  godliness,  and  reap  a  manifold  return  for  the 
I-ord  of  the  harvest"  (c.  xiv.). 

On  Peter's  wish,  Let  us  make  here  three  tabernacles, 
»\:c.,  and  the  refusal  of  it,  the  preacher  thus  com- 
ments : — ''  If  ye  had  remained  on  Mount  Tabor,  the 
I)romise  made  to  thee,  Peter,  would  not  have  had  its 
fulfilment.  For  thou  wouldst  not  have  been  made 
keeper  of  the  keys  of  the  Kingdom  ;  paradise  would 
not  have  been  opened  to  the  robber ;  the  arrogant 
usurpation  of  death  would  not  have  been  destroyed  ; 
the  palaces  of  Hades  would  not  have  been  given  for 
a  prey ;  patriarchs  and  prophets  and  just  men  would 
not  have  been  released  from  the  depths  of  hell ;  our 
nature  would  not  have  put  on  incorruption.  If 
Adam  had  not  sought  to  be  as  God  before  the  time, 
he  would  have  attained  his  desire.  Seek  not  then 
what  is  good  before  the  time,  Peter.  The  days  will 
come  when  thou  wilt  enjoy  this  vision  unceasingly. 
Not  tabernacles,  l)ut  the  world-wide  church,  did  the 


112  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Lord  ordain  thee  to  set  in  order.  Thy  disciples,  thy 
sheep,  which  the  good  chief  pastor  placed  in  thy 
charge,  have  brought  thy  words  to  their  fulfilment, 
by  erecting  for  Christ,  and  for  his  ministers  Moses 
and  Elias,  the  tabernacle  wherein  we  now  keep  the 
feast "  (c.  xvi). 

The  cloud  entered  by  the  three  was  the  antitype  of 
that  cloud  and  darkness  which  Moses  entered  at  the 
giving  of  the  law.  For  the  law,  as  St.  Paul  writes, 
has  a  shadow  of  good  things  to  coine.  Only  on  that 
former  occasion  the  cloud  was  one  of  darkness  ;  now 
it  is  a  cloud  of  light.  For  the  mystery  hid  from  past 
generations  was  now  revealed — that  mystery  which 
the  law  and  the  prophets  had  alike  foretold.  Hence 
the  fitness  of  Moses  and  Elias  being  now  present,  one 
the  representative  of  the  law,  the  other  of  the  prophets; 
one  moreover  representing  the  quick,  and  the  other 
the  dead  (c.  xvii).  That  voice  from  the  cloud  which 
proclaimed,  This  is  My  beloved  Son,  was  the  voice  of 
Him  who  at  the  first  saw  all  that  He  had  made  and 
pronounced  it  very  good.  "  The  good  pleasure  of  the 
Father  welded  together  in  His  only-begotten  Son  the 
connecting  link  of  all.  For  if  man  is  indeed  the 
microcosm,  bearing  in  himself  the  link  which  couples 
the  visible  universe  with  the  invisible,  being  in  fact 
both  the  one  and  the  other;  rightly  was  it  well-pleasing 
to  the  Lord  and  Creator  and  Governor  of  all  things, 
that  in  His  only-begotten  and  consubstantial  Son 
there  should  be  made  a  connecting  Unk  of  Godhead 
and  manhood,  and,  through  that,  of  the  whole 
creation  ;  that  God  might  be  all  in  all "  (c.  xvii). 

In   his    exposition    of  the    words  Hear  ye  Him, 


SERMONS.  I  I  3 

Damasccnus  takes  occasion  tu  run  over  tlic  command- 
ments, as  beinf][  part  of  that  divine  utterance  to 
which  we  are  to  listen  ;  and  he  thus  concludes : 
''  These  ordinances  of  God  let  us  keep  with  all 
watchfulness,  that  we  too  may  luxuriate  in  His 
divine  beauty,  and  may  have  our  fill  in  tasting  His 
sweetness,  both  in  this  life,  as  far  as  is  possible  fur 
those  who  are  weighed  down  with  this  earthly  taber- 
nacle of  the  body,  and  hereafter  in  greater  clearness 
and  purity;  when  the  righteous  shine  forth  as  the  sun, 
and  when,  released  from  the  constraints  of  the  body, 
they  will  be  as  the  angels,  living  imperishably  with 
the  Lord,  in  the  great  and  glorious  revelation  from 
heaven  of  our  Lord,  and  God,  and  Saviour,  Jesus 
Christ  Himself;  to  whom  be  glory  and  dominion, 
now,  henceforth,  and  for  ever.     Amen.'' 

Tlie  sermon  on  the  Withered  Fig-Tree,  which  follows, 
though  considerably  shorter  than  that  on  the  Trans- 
figuration, takes  a  wider  sweep,  and  is  not  so  close 
an  exposition  of  its  subject.  From  the  title,  it  would 
appear  to  have  been  delivered  in  a  "church  of  the 
Holy  Resurrection,"  presumably  in  Jerusalem.  At 
the  outset,  the  preacher  says  that  he  was  moved  to 
utterance  by  '*  the  subsistent  Word  of  God  the 
Father,  who  departed  not  from  the  bosom  of  the 
Father,  and  yet  was  conceived  incomprehensibly  in 
the  Virgin's  womb  ;  who  for  my  sake  became  what  I 
am  ;  who,  though  free  from  j)assions  in  His  godhead, 
put  on  a  human  body  of  like  passions  with  myself; 
who,  while  riding  on  the  chariots  of  the  cherubim, 
yet  seated  Himself,  when  on  earth,  upon  the  foal  of 
I 


114  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

an  ass  "  (c.  i).     And  he  then  proceeds  to  speak  more 
fully  of  Christ's  incarnation. 

It  might  not  be  obvious  with  what  design  the  dis- 
course was  thus  begun,  or  what  was  the  association  of 
thought  in  the  preacher's  mind.  But  as  we  advance 
we  discern  his  leading  idea  to  be,  that,  as  Christ 
came  to  the  fig-tree  hungering  for  fruit,  and  found 
none,  so  He  came  to  mankind,  impelled  by  a  divine 
yearning  after  them.  Beyond  the  line  of  thought 
thus  marked  out,  and  what  is  necessary  to  elucidate 
it,  there  is  very  little  in  the  way  of  comment  or 
exposition  of  the  text.  With  this  clue,  however,  to 
the  preacher's  drift,  the  reader  will  have  no  difficulty 
in  tracing  the  connection  of  the  following  passages  : 
"We  hated  Him,  and  turned  away  from  Him, 
becoming  slaves  to  another.  But  He  continued  to 
have  an  unchangeable  love  for  us.  On  this  account 
He  ran  after  us.  He  came  to  those  who  hated  Him, 
He  pursued  those  who  fled  from  Him,  and,  when  He 
overtook  them,  chastised  them  not  in  sternness  nor 
brought  them  back  with  a  scourge  j  but,  as  a  good 
physician,  when  insulted,  spit  upon,  beaten,  by  a 
patient  in  delirium,  only  applies  remedies,  so  did  He. 
And  as  a  mighty  work  of  healing.  He  applied  His 
own  Godhead  to  be  a  remedy  of  man's  human  nature 
— a  remedy  most  efficacious,  a  remedy  all-powerful." 
This  rendered  the  weak  flesh  mightier  than  the 
powers  unseen.  For  just  as  iron  is  unapproachable, 
when  united  whh  fire  {t'.e.,  when  made  burning  hot), 
even  so  the  mere  stubble  of  our  nature,  when  united 
with  the  fire  of  the  Godhead,  has  been  made  un- 
approachable   to     the     devil.      And,    seeing    that 


SERMONS.  115 

physicians  say  that  oi)positos  are  the  cures  of  oppo- 
sites,^  Christ  overthrows  opposites  by  opposites ; 
])lcasure  by  labour,  haughtiness  by  humiliation  (c.  ii). 
The  intensity  of  Christ's  love  to  man  is  next  shown  by 
His  hungering  early  in  the  morning,  as  He  returned 
from  Bethany  to  Jerusalem.  For  we  think  of  hunger 
rather  as  following  hours  of  labour,  than  as  felt  at 
the  opening  of  the  day.  Christ  was  not  really  in 
need  of  food,  but  the  circumstances  of  the  parable 
were  adjusted  to  set  forth  its  one  central  teaching. 
*'  He  came,  then,  to  the  fig-tree,  being  an-hungered. 
The  fig  tree  was  an  emblem  of  human  nature.  The 
fruit  of  this  tree  is  sweet,  but  its  leaves  are  harsh, 
useless,  and  only  fit  for  burning.  Even  so  the 
nature  of  man  had  a  most  sweet  fruit  to  bear,  that  of 
virtue,  for  which  it  was  ordained  to  be  prolific  by  God. 
And  through  its  unfruitfulness  in  respect  of  virtue,  it 
gained  its  harshness  of  leaves.  For  what  is  harsher 
than  the  cares  of  life  ? "  In  this  way  our  first 
])arents,  when  by  their  disobedience  they  lost  that 
grace  of  God  which  covered  them  as  a  garment, 
sciued  fi^lcaves  together  and  made  themselves  aprons. 
They  became  environed,  that  is,  with  the  cares  and 
anxieties  of  a  fallen  life ;  for  the  decree  had  gone 

'  This,  the  opposite  maxim  to  the  similia  similibits  curantur 
of  ihc  homcjcopalhist,  was  a  favourite  one  with  Dean  Colct. 
"  I^t  this  be  a  settled  and  established  maxim,"  he  writes 
("Lectures  on  Romans,"  1873,  p.  87),  "that  evil  cannot  be 
remove*!  except  by  means  of  good  .  .  .  For  whatever  seeks  to 
conquer  must  needs  make  itself  as  unlike  as  jxjssible  to  that 
which  it  seeks  to  conquer,  since  victory  is  gained  in  every 
instance,  not  by  what  is  like,  but  by  what  is  unlike." 
I    2 


Il6  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

forth,  cmsed  is  the  groimd  for  thy  sake ;  in  sorrow 
shalt  thou  eat  of  it  all  the  days  of  thy  life  (c.  iii).  As 
an  example  of  barren  and  ungrateful  wordiness, 
which  he  compares  to  the  profusion  of  leaves  on  the 
unfruitful  fig-tree — rough  leaves  in  place  of  sweet 
fruit — the  preacher  cites  the  harsh  questions  put  to 
Jesus  shortly  afterwards  by  the  chief  priests  and 
elders  of  the  people  (St.  Matth.  xxi.  23),  who  came 
to  Him  in  the  temple,  and  said :  By  what  authority 
doest  thou  these  things  1  and  who  gave  thee  this 
authority  ?  "  Behold,"  he  cries,  "  their  barrenness  of 
spirit  and  unbelief !  They  ought  to  have  said,  '  Well 
done,  good  Master,  for  that  Thou  didst  raise  Lazarus 
after  being  dead  four  days,  didst  make  the  lame  to 
walk,  didst  give  the  power  of  seeing  to  the  blind, 
didst  heal  the  bruised  and  wounded,  didst  drive 
away  every  infirmity,  didst  put  the  evil  spirits  to 
flight,  and  showedst  the  way  of  salvation.'  But  in 
place  of  this  they  ask.  By  what  authority  doest  thou 
these  things  ?  .  .  .  O  wicked  and  faithless  genera- 
tion." 

The  explanation  which  John  of  Damascus  gives  a 
little  later  on  of  Christ's  being  the  chief  corner  stone  is 
noticeable.  Instead  of  His  being  so  called  as  joining 
and  locking  together  in  one  the  Jewish  and  Gentile 
worlds,  as  adjacent  walls,  he  regards  Him  as  perform- 
ing that  office  for  the  two  parts  of  the  Church,  the 
visible  and  the  invisible,  angels  and  men.  "I  will 
join  the  two  hosts  together,  the  things  that  are  now 
separate,  what  is  on  earth  and  what  is  in  heaven. 
Through  me  shall  there  be  formed  one  Church,  of 
angels  and  of  men  "  (c.  iv). 


SERMON?.  I  I  7 

"  Come  then,  brethren,"  he  concludes,  "as  many 
as  received  the  name  of  believers,  who  have  been 
counted  worthy  to  be  called  the  people  of  Christ,  let 
us  not  make  our  calling  void,  nor  defile  our  faith  by 
unseemly  deeds,  'Tis  not  enough  to  be  called  a 
believer ;  let  us  manifest  our  faith  by  works  .  .  . 
Let  us  remember  the  renunciation  and  the  covenant 
which  we  made  in  baptism.  We  renounced  the  devil 
and  his  angels,  and  all  his  service.  Let  us  keep  our 
renouncing  ;  let  us  not  return  again  like  the  dog  to  his 
vomit."  He  then  enumerates  the  works  of  the  devil, 
which  they  should  renounce  ;  and  the  graces  of  the 
Spirit,  which  they  should  follow  (c,  vi);  ending  with  the 
prayer  :  "  Hold  thou  the  dominion  over  my  heart,  O 
Lord,  and  keep  it  as  Thine  inheritance.  Make  Thou 
Thy  dwelling  in  me,  along -with  the  Father  and  the 
Holy  Ghost.  Widen  in  me  the  cords  of  Thy  taber- 
nacle, even  the  operations  of  Thy  most  holy  Spirit. 
For  Thou  art  my  Ciod,  and  I  will  praise  Thee,  together 
with  Thy  Eternal  Father  and  Thy  quickening  Spirit, 
now,  henceforth,  and  for  ever.     Amen," 

The  third  sermon  is  on  Good  Friday — Sancta 
Parasceve^  the  "day  of  preparation''  for  the  Jewish 
Sabbath.  In  some  manuscripts  it  is  attributed  to 
St.  John  Chr}sostom,  and  was  included  in  the  works 
of  that  writer  by  Sir  Henry  Savile.  Lequien  seems 
to  think  it  genuine,  by  asserting  that  it  is  wrongly 
ascribed  to  Chrysostom,  and  by  introducing  it  in  his 
own  edition  of  Damascenus's  works  without  further 
remark,  I  am  bound  to  say  that  the  style  appears  to 
me  to  show  a  higher  order  of  eloquence  than  is  found 


Il8  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

in  the  confessedly  genuine  works  of  Damascenus.^ 
But  a  few  extracts  may  perhaps  with  propriety  be 
given,  if  only  to  enable  the  reader  to  form  some 
estimate  for  himself  of  the  merits  of  this  discourse. 

He  begins  with  a  panegyric  upon  the  cross,  and  the 
day  on  which  Christ  was  crucified.  "  On  this,  the 
sixth  day,  Adam  was  formed.  On  this  day  he  bore 
the  likeness  of  God.  On  this  day  was  established 
the  microcosm  in  the  macrocosm  (/>.,  man,  the 
"  lesser  universe  "  in  the  greater).  On  this  day  man, 
as  pilot,  had  given  to  him  the  fair  rudder  of  the 
world,  a  living  creature  that  was  to  control  all  living 
creatures.  On  this  day  he  received  commandments 
to  be  willingly  obeyed  ;  on  this,  he  fell  from  paradise ; 
on  this,  he  was  brought  into  paradise  again.  Oh ! 
day  of  vicissitudes,  mournful,  yet  free  from  mourning. 
Oh  !  day  fraught  with  sorrow  at  dawn,  with  gladness 
at  eventide ;  nay,  rather,  a  day  that  wounded  not  so 
much  as  it  healed.  Downcast  I  am,  let  me  own 
it,  as  I  recur  to  those  disastrous  deeds  of  old  ;  as  I 
hear  of  Adam  expelled  from  his  native  home ;  from 
paradise  its  denizen,   man.      There   had   he   found 

*  It  would  be  out  of  place  here  to  go  into  minute  details  of 
criticism.  But  I  doubt  whether  Damascenus  uses  such  terms 
as  XoiTfov  {—  -{jSt})  "now  j"  Xev^fiftoj^w  "I  rejoice  "  (lit.  "am 
clad  in  white  garments"),  ixovovovxi,  and  some  others.  There 
is  also  a  conspicuous  absence  of  that  constant  allusion  to  the 
twofold  nature  of  Christ,  and  kindred  topics,  observed  in 
Damascenus.  The  mention,  too,  of  all  peoples,  nations  and 
languages  (col.  592),  as  observing  the  Lenten  fast,  would  be 
less  appropriate  in  the  case  of  Damascenus,  at  a  time  when  the 
world,  especially  his  own  quarter  of  it,  was  being  overrun  by 
the  Saracens. 


SERMONS.  119 

sustenance  without  labour,  revelling  in  plenty  with- 
out rain  (Gen.  ii.,  5),  needing  for  a  livelihood  neither 
the  sweat  of  his  brow,  nor  labour  with  the  hoe,  nor 
any  toil ;  but  with  trees  ever  blossoming  to  give  him 
delight,  he  could  pass  from  flower  to  flower,  from 
fruit  to  fruit,  finding  what  he  needed  ever  waiting 
upon  his  desires,  and  only  at  a  loss  on  which  object 
first  to  lay  his  hands,  through  the  loveliness  of  all  he 
saw."  But,  though  the  thought  of  such  happiness 
forfeited  makes  him  sad,  yet  the  Christian  associations 
of  the  day  rekindle  joy  and  gladness  in  his  heart. 
For  *'  look  round  on  the  habitable  world,  how  many 
villages,  how  many  cities,  how  many  regions,  how 
many  nations,  how  many  islands,  rivers,  shores,  races, 
tribes,  and  languages  there  are  ;  and  yet  all  these  are 
to-day  keeping  fast  on  account  of  the  Cross ;  in  its 
power  crucifying  their  affections ;  and  with  many, 
even  the  end  of  night  brings  not  an  end  to  their 
painful  abstinence.  And  now  we  are  all  assembled 
together  to  hear  about  the  Cross,  and  throng  the 
church,  sweating  and  struggling  as  we  crowd  upon 
one  another.^  Those  of  us  who  are  honoured  with 
a  front  seat,  when  in  the  presence  of  earthly  judges, 
are  here  glad  to  stand  in  presence  of  Jesus.  For  he 
stood  for  our  sakes,  to  stem  the  torrent  of  wicked- 
ness "  (c.  ii.)  The  scene  before  Pilate's  judgment- 
seat  is  then  recounted,  and  its  incidents  dwelt  upon. 
On  the  dream  of  Pilate's  wife  he  comments  thus  : — 
"  A  second  Joseph  sees  the  truth  through  dreams, 
and  bears  witness  against  the  clamour  of  the  Jews. 

'  This  little  touch  seems  characteristic  of  St.  Chrysostom. 


I20  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

It  was  fit  that  they  should  be  beaten  by  women. 
Rahab,  the  harlot,  beat  them ;  the  one  with  an  issue 
of  blood  beat  them ;  the  Canaanitish  woman  beat 
them.  And  now  once  more  a  woman  receives  the 
crown  of  victory  over  them." 

One  more  extract  will  suffice.  It  is  from  the  close  of 
the  sermon,  when  he  is  speaking  of  the  penitent  thief 
on  the  cross.  "  I  could  have  wished,"  he  says,  "  to 
pass  over  the  story,  so  often  has  it  been  related  to 
you.  But  the  robber  is  before  my  eyes,  ever  forcing 
me.  And  no  marvel ;  for  he  forced  even  the  gates  of 
paradise,  turning  his  robber's  skill  to  his  own  preser- 
vation. There  we  behold  standing  on  the  Cross  the 
Lamb  between  two  wolves.  But  the  one  of  them 
continued  in  his  former  mind,  the  other  repented. 
Remember  me^  he  said,  ivhen  Thou  coi?iest  in  Thy  king- 
dom. Oh  !  the  power  of  Jesus.  The  robber  is  now 
a  prophet,  and  this  is  his  message  from  the  cross  : 
Remember  me,  Lord,  when  Thou  comest  in  Thy  king- 
dom. Why,  what  emblems  of  royalty  dost  thou  see, 
poor  robber  ?  buffetings,  spittings,  nails,  the  cross  of 
wood,  the  scoffs  of  the  Jews,  and  the  lance  of  the 
soldier  now  bared  for  its  work.  '  Yea,  but,'  saith  he, 
*  I  see  not  these  things  that  appear.  I  see  angels 
standing  around,  I  see  the  sun  hiding  its  face,  the 
veil  of  the  temple  rent,  the  earth  shaking,  the  dead 
preparing  to  flee.'  And  Jesus,  that  receiveth  all,  even 
those  who  come  at  the  eleventh  hour  to  prophesy  in 
his  name,  and  giveth  them  all  their  penny,  as  being 
alike  workers,  saith  to  him  Amen.  Take  thou  too 
thy  Amen,  poor  robber !  to-day  a  robber,  to-day  a  son. 
To-day  shalt  thou  be  icifh  me  in  paradise.     I,  that  cast 


sr.RMCiNS,  121 

thee  out,  do  bring  thee  in  ;  even  I,  tliat  shut  the  gates 
of  paradise  and  barred  them  with  a  flaming  sword. 
If  I  bring  thee  not  in,  the  gates  remain  shut.  Come 
hither  to  me,  robber,  that  hast  robbed  the  devil,  and 
gained  the  crown  of  victory  over  him.  For  when 
thou  sawest  me  as  man,  thou  didst  worship  me  as 
God.  Thine  old  weapons  thou  hast  flung  away,  but 
hast  taken  the  shield  of  faith." 

The  fourth  sermon,  on  Holy  Saturday,  or  Easter 
Eve,  is  the  longest  of  all,  and  is  an  important,  though 
somewhat  tedious  one.  About  its  genuineness,  as 
Langen  admits,  there  can  be  no  doubt.  Beginning 
with  the  question  of  the  Psalmist,  IF/io  can  utter  the 
mighty  acts  of  the  Lord  1  who  can  show  forth  all  His 
praise  1  the  preacher  replies  that  none  can  fully  do 
so,  though  he  should  speak  with  the  tongues  of 
angels  and  of  men.  Such  mysteries  of  divine  love 
can  only  be  accepted  by  faith  ;  and  to  ai)proarh  them 
becomingly,  we  need  that  purity  of  mind  which  the 
love  and  dread  of  God  alone  can  give.  This  was 
symbolised  by  the  putting  off  his  sandals  by  Moses, 
a  figure  of  the  laying  aside  all  dead  and  grovelling 
thoughts.  "  Let  us  then,  my  brethren,"  he  proceeds, 
"  purify  ourselves  from  every  earthly  imagination,  and 
from  all  the  disturbance  and  confusion  of  life,  that 
ve  may  receive  with  unclouded  vision  the  radiant 
;>lendours  of  the  divine  word,  and  have  our  souls 
nourished  with  the  spiritual  bread  which  is  angels' 
food  ;  and  passing  within  the  veil  may  learn  clearly 
the  divine  passion  of  the  passionless,  even  the  salva- 
tion of  the  world  "  (c.  i.).     After  a  prayer  for  himself 


122  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

and  his  hearers  that  they  may  die  tinto  sin  with  Christ, 
resting  as  on  that  day  in  the  stillness  of  the  grave,  he 
takes  occasion  from  this  very  pause  and  intermission, 
as  it  were,  in  the  work  of  Christ,  to  pass  in  review 
the  whole  system  of  God's  dealings  with  man.  This, 
while  adding  to  the  importance  of  the  present  homily, 
as  conveying  to  us  the  views  of  Damascenus  on  many 
doctrinal  matters,  leads  to  a  somewhat  tedious  pro- 
lixity. 

Beginning  at  the  very  beginning,  with  the  eternal 
existence  of  a  Divine  First  Cause,  God  the  Father, 
he  passes  on  to  speak  of  the  eternal  generation  of  the 
Son,  and  the  procession  of  the  Holy  Ghost,  and  the 
relations  between  the  persons  of  the  Holy  Trinity. 
"  The  Holy  Ghost  is  of  God  and  the  Father,  as 
proceeding  from  Him  ;  and  is  also  said  to  be  of  the 
Son^  as  being  through  Him  made  manifest  and  com- 
municated to  the  created  world,  but  not  as  having 
His  existence  from  Him  "  (c.  iv.).^ 

In  describing  the  Creation,  Damascenus  gives  free 
play  to  his  exuberance  of  language.  And  though  the 
effect  is  marred  by  the  incongruous  nature  of  the 
materials   he   works   with, — old   epic   and   dramatic 

^  The  memorable  addition  of  the  words  filioque  to  the 
Western  creed,  which  involved  the  doctrine  that  the  Holy- 
Ghost  proceeds  from  the  Son  in  like  manner  as  from  the 
Father,  is  said  to  have  been  first  made  in  589,  at  the  third 
Council  of  Toledo.  The  clause  would  appear  to  have  been 
slipped  in  almost  without  opposition  or  comment  at  the  time. 
The  first  open  contention  about  it  between  the  Greek  and  Latin 
churches  began  at  the  Council  of  Gentilly  in  767,  not  many 
years  after  this  sermon  of  Damascene's  was  delivered.  See 
Lumby's  "History  of  the  Creeds,"  1873,  p.  85. 


SERMONS.  123 

terms  and  forms  of  words  blending  promiscuously 
with  the  later  vintage  of  philosophy  and  the  Church 
— still,  oven  under  this  truly  Byzantine  exterior,  it  is 
impossible  not  to  admire  the  power  and  flexibility  of 
the  Greek  tongue.  "Of  Himself,"  he  thus  begins, 
"  God  made  out  of  what  existed  not  both  the  angels, 
and  the  heaven,  and  the  earth,  and  all  that  therein  is. 
He  made  the  empyrean,  and  the  watery  abyss  ;  the 
atmosphere  to  be  a  storehouse  for  the  winds,  and 
the  transparent  vehicle  of  light.  He  made  a  second 
revolving  canopy,  the  firmament  resting  on  water,  to 
divide  the  waters  above  from  the  waters  beneath, 
even  that  which  He  called  heaven.  He  made  the 
blazing  sun,  the  bringer  of  day  and  night  in  its  two- 
fold chariot-course,  the  beacon-fire  of  the  universe 
with  its  flashing  rays ;  the  moon  also,  that  illumines 
the  night,  and  tempers  the  ardent  beams  of  the  sun ; 
those  stars,  moreover,  that  adorn  the  firmament.  He 
made  all  things  upon  the  earth  ;  flowers  of  every  kind 
and  of  varied  uses,  the  herb  bearing  seed,  and  the 
fruitful  trees,  earth's  fairest  ornament.  He  made  the 
living  creatures  of  all  kinds  that  swim  in  the  waters, 
the  great  and  prodigious  whales,  as  well  as  the  mani- 
fold sj)ccies  of  reptiles,  and  winged  birds,  that  have 
their  birth  in  water,  their  flight  in  air,  their  food  on 
land.  Yet  again.  He  made  living  creatures  out  of 
the  earth,  both  the  untamed  wild  beasts  and  the 
herds  of  domestic  animals  : — all  alike  to  be  an  evi- 
dence of  His  own  mighty  working,  and  a  feast  for 
man  to  enjoy,  who  was  to  be  made  in  the  image  of 
God  "  (c.  v.).  Then  follows  the  story  of  the  Tempta- 
tion.     The  (ne  of  tJtc  knotuUdge  of  good  and  nil  may 


T24  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

have  had  its  name,  either  because  it  was  meant  to 
test  man's  obedience,  and  would  thus  make  his  good 
or  evil  bias  known ;  or  because  its  fruit  would  impart 
to  those  who  partook  of  it  a  knowledge  of  their  own 
true  nature. 

The  subject  of  God's  plan  for  man's  redemption, 
which  is  next  discussed,  leads  to  a  digression  on  the 
twofold  nature  and  will  of  Christ,  in  terms  very 
similar  to  those  employed  in  the  "  De  Fide.'  By 
c.  xix.  Damascene  comes  back  more  directly  to  his 
subject.  '■'' For  since  through  man  came  death /\i  \v2iS 
right  also  that  through  man  should  be  given  the 
resurrection  from  the  dead.  Seeing  that  a  rational 
soul  of  its  own  free  will  wrought  the  transgression,  it 
was  right  that  a  rational  soul,  of  its  natural  and  own 
free  will,  should  work  obedience  to  the  Creator ;  and 
that  Salvation  should  return  through  the  same 
channels  whereby  Death  had  banished  life,  that 
Death  might  not  deem  himself  a  despot  over  man." 
This  is  followed  by  a  singularly  forced  metaphor  : — 
*'  And  what  was  the  issue  of  this  1  Death,  after 
baiting  for  man  with  the  hope  of  his  becoming  as 
God,  was  himself  caught  by  the  bait  of  proffered 
flesh  :  and  after  tasting  a  sinless  body,  became  sick, 
and  vomited  forth,  poor  wretch,  all  the  food  that  he 
had  in  his  inside  "  (c.  xx.).  It  is  fair  to  say  that  such 
strained  metaphors  as  this  are  not  often  found  in  our 
author,  though  he  often  errs  in  that  direction.  The 
passage  which  immediately  follows,  on  the  Cruci- 
fixion, is  not  a  bad  example  of  the  forced  antithesis, 
and  striving  after  effect,  which  marks  the  decadence 
of  a  literature.     "  He  who  had  fashioned  man  with 


SERMONS.  125 

divine  hands,  stretched  out  His  undcfiled  hands  all 
day  long  to  a  disobedient  and  j^ainsayintr  people^  and 
commended  His  Spirit  into  the  hands  of  His  Father. 
A  lance  pierces  the  side  of  Him  who  formed  Kve 
out  of  the  side  of  Adam,  and  opens  the  fountain  of 
divine  blood  and  water,  the  draught  of  immortality, 
the  laver  of  regeneration.  At  this  sight  the  sun  was 
abashed,  not  enduring  to  see  the  intelligible  Sun  of 
Righteousness  treated  with  insult.  The  earth  did 
quake,  being  sprinkled  with  the  blood  of  its  Lord, 
and  leapt  for  joy  at  its  purification,  as  it  shook  off  the 
defilement  of  idols'  blood.  Many  that  were  dead 
rose  from  their  sepulchres,  foreshadowing  the  resur- 
rection of  Him  who  was  being  put  to  death  for  us. 
The  sun  was  eclipsed,  and  rekindled  its  rays  again, 
so  as  to  make  the  number  of  three  days  spoken  of  by 
the  Lord.^  The  veil  of  the  temple  was  rent  in  twain, 
showing  plainly  the  way  of  approach  to  the  inner 
sanctuary,  and  the  revelation  of  that  which  had  been 
hidden.  For  now  the  robber  was  to  enter  paradise, 
and  the  Man  who  was  lifted  up  as  a  malefactor,  was 

'  This  is  explained  more  fully  a  little  later  on  (c.  xxvi.). 
Taking  the  words  of  St.  Matt,  xii.,  40,  in  which  our  Lord 
quotes  the  illustration  of  Jonah,  to  require  that  his  death 
should  extend  over  parts  of  three  days  and  three  ni^hts^ 
Damascene  thus  computes  them.  The  supernatural  darkness 
from  the  sixth  hour  to  the  ninth,  on  the  day  of  the  Passion, 
was  the  fir.>t  night,  making,  with  the  restored  light  that  re- 
mained before  sunset,  one  complete  day.  This  would  leave 
two  successions  of  nights  and  days  to  follow  before  the  resur- 
rection. Zech.  xiv.  6,  7,  is  quoted  as  harmonizing  with  this  : 
"And  it  shall  come  to  pass  in  that  day  that  there  shall  not  be 
light  ....  but  at  evening  time  it  shall  be  light." 


120  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

to  be  believed  on  and  worshipped  by  every  creature  " 
(c.  xxi.). 

A  figure  of  the  cross  is  found,  somewhat  artifi- 
cially, in  the  act  of  Moses,  when  bidden  to  lift  up 
his  rod  and  stretch  out  his  hand  over  the  sea ;  the 
uplifted  rod,  as  it  would  seem,  being  meant  for  a 
type  of  the  upright  beam  of  the  cross,  and  the  out- 
stretched arm  for  the  transverse  beam  across  it.^ 
The  reason  why  Christ  should  have  been  laid  in  a 
new  sepulchre  is  thus  stated :  "  But  why  is  He  laid 
in  a  new  sepulchre,  wherein  no  dead  was  ever  yet 
laid?  Methinks  it  was  that  the  resurrection  might 
not  be  supposed  to  have  been  that  of  any  of  its 
former  occupants.  For  the  men  who  thus  looked 
with  evil  eye  on  their  own  salvation  were  ready  for 
any  device,  and  most  prompt  to  disbelieve.  And, 
therefore,  that  the  resurrection  of  the  Lord  may 
be  visibly  and  conspicuously  displayed,  He  is  buried 
in  a  new  and  unused  tomb.  He,  the  spiritual  Rock 
of  life,  from  which  as  it  followed  them  the  unmindful 
Israelites  drank ;  He,  the  corner  stone,  not  hewn  with 

This  seems  the  true  explanation  of  an  obscure  passage. 
Damascene's  words  are:  "Does  not  the  same  Moses  again 
smite  the  sea  with  his  rod,  and  by  the  twofold  manner  of  his 
stroke,  the  upright  and  the  transverse,  betoken  the  figure  of 
the  cross?"  (c.  xxv.)  Lequien  briefly  refers  to  Exod.  xiv.  27; 
but  in  that  verse  there  is  mention  only  of  the  stretching  out  of 
the  hand  over  the  sea.  To  complete  the  fanciful  idea  in  the 
text,  we  want  the  mention  of  the  uplifted  rod  as  well,  found  in 
xiv.  16  ;  unless  indeed  there  has  been  some  confusion  in  the 
writer's  mind  between  this  and  the  smiting  the  rock  twice ;  as 
there  is  nothing  in  Exod.  xiv.  to  suggest  that  Moses  smote  the 
sea. 


SERMONS.  127 

hands,  is  buried  in  the  hewn  rock.  Even  so  those 
souls  that  are  soon  broken  and  easily  dissolved  in 
I^leasures,  endure  not  to  receive  the  divine  Word.  This 
is  for  those  of  sterner  stuff,  that  are  cast  in  manlier 
mould  for  virtue  "  (c.  xxx.). 

In  the  practical  exhortation  to  his  hearers  with 
which  he  concludes,  Damascene  may  possibly  refer 
to  the  spread  of  Mahometanism  around.  "  Let  us 
strive  then  to  multiply  the  talents  committed  to  us, 
in  proportion  to  our  power.  I^et  him  that  has 
received  five,  return  to  the  giver  five  more  besides  ; 
and  let  him  that  has  been  entrusted  with  two  do 
the  like.  Let  the  one  who  has  received  the  grace  for 
this,  stretch  out  a  helping  hand  to  them  that  need 
compassion,  and  that  toil  under  the  burden  of 
poverty.  Let  another  feed  with  the  word  of  life 
those  who  are  wasting  in  spiritual  hunger,  and 
parched  with  the  hot  blast  of  unbelief"  (c.  xxxiv.). 
The  allusion  in  this  last  expression  to  the  scorching 
wind  of  the  desert,  would  make  the  words  more  ex- 
pressive. In  view  of  the  approaching  celebration  of 
the  Holy  Eucharist  on  the  morrow,  he  thus  addresses 
them  ; — and  the  language  he  uses  on  this  subject,  as 
representing  the  Eastern  Church,  will  not  fail  to  be 
carefully  noted  : — **  Let  us  who  are  bidden,  array 
ourselves  gloriously  in  the  wedding  garment,  that 
we  may  be  made  partakers  of  the  heavenly  feast,  and 
be  owned  worthy  of  our  calling,  and  may  share  the 
fatted  calf,  and  take  our  portion  of  the  Paschal 
Lamb,  and  be  filled  with  the  new  i)roduce  of  the 
vine  ;  even  that  which  is  now  at  the  invocation  truly 
and  unspeakably  changed  from  bread  into  the  flesh 


128  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS 

of  God,    and   from  wine  into  the  blood  of  God " 

(C.  XXXV.  ).i 

His  closing  words  are  an  exhortation  to  watchful- 
ness, enforced  by  the  parable  of  the  Ten  Virgins. 
*'  So  watching,"  he  ends,  "  with  our  lamps  brightly 
burning,  we  shall  go  forth  in  bright  array  to  meet  the 
vanquisher  of  death,  the  immortal  Bridegroom  ;  and 
we  shall  be  welcomed  in  the  bridechamber  undefiled, 
and  with  face  unveiled  shall  look  upon  the  glory  of 
the  Lord,  and  luxuriate  in  His  beauty;  with  whom 
to  the  Father  and  the  Holy  Spirit  be  glory,  honour, 
adoration,  and  majesty,  now,  henceforth,  and  for  ever. 
Amen." 

iVfter  analysing  so  minutely  the  first  four  homilies, 
there  is  the  less  need  to  notice  the  others  in  detail. 
The   next  two   in  order  are  on    the  Annunciation.- 

•  What  inferences  can  be  drawn  from  Damascenus's  use  of 
the  word  "changed"  {f^tTaTroioijfisvov)  in  this  connection  is 
a  question  that  has  been  partly  discussed  above,  p.  83  n. 
Petrie,  commenting  on  the  parallel  passage  in  the  "  De  Fide" 
(c.  xiv)  quotes  him  as  saying,  "By  invocation,  and  by  working 
of  the  Holy  Ghost,  the  Bread  and  Wine  and  Water  are  super- 
naturally  changed  into  the  Body  and  Blood  of  Christ."  "  The 
Papishes,"  adds  the  old  Scotsman,  "make  use  of  this  testimony 
for  their  Transubstantiation  ;  but  there  is  also  a  supernatural 
change  of  the  Water  in  Baptism,  and  yet  no  Transubstantia- 
tion ;  neither  do  the  Greeks  believe  it  to  this  day,  but  only  a 
mystical  change  in  regard  of  the  use  and  effect." — "Compendious 
History  of  the  Catholick  Church,"  1662,  part  i.,  p.  88. 

*''  The  first  of  these  bears  no  number  in  Migne's  edition,  the 
next  counting  as  the  fifth  of  the  series.  For  greater  precision, 
I  have  reckoned  them  as  the  fifth  and  sixth,  making  fourteen  in 
all. 


SERMONS.  129 

The  first  of  these  exists  only  in  an  Arabic  version,  and 
that  plainly  defective  and  incomplete.  A  Latin  trans- 
lation from  this  was  made  by  the  Abbe  Du  Four  de 
Longuerue  for  Lequien's  edition,  but  the  piece  calls 
for  no  particular  remark.  According  to  Langen,  the 
genuineness  of  it  is  very  doubtful,  while  that  of  the 
next  on  the  same  subject  cannot  by  any  means  be 
admitted.  We  should  be  sorry  indeed  to  think  that 
this  latter  of  the  two  was  by  Damascene.  After  a 
short  introduction,  calling  on  all  nations  to  rejoice  at 
the  good  tidings,  the  homily,  if  such  it  can  be  called, 
is  made  up  entirely  of  exclamatory  sentences,  each 
beginning  with  the  first  word  of  the  angelic  salutation, 
JIail!\x\  slightly  varied  forms.  It  would  be  impos- 
sible to  give,  in  an  English  version,  any  adequate 
conception  of  the  turgid,  affected  style,  with  its  com- 
pound epithets  setting  all  the  resources  of  lexico- 
graphy at  defiance.^ 

The  five  homilies  which  come  next  in  order,  are 
all  on  kindred  subjects ;  two  on  the  Nativity  of  the 
Blessed  Virgin,  and  three  on  her  Assumption.  The 
genuineness,  at  least  of  the  first  two  of  these — those 
on  the  Nativity — has  been  called  in  question  ;  partly 
on  the  ground  that  the  festival  which  gave  occasion 
to  them  was  not  instituted  till  a  later  date.  IJut  there 
seems  good  authority  fi^r  believing  that  the  feast  of 
the  Nativity  of  the  Virgin  (Sept.  8th)  was  observed  in 
the  Greek  Church  as  early  as  the  seventh  century.- 
One  account  even  makes  it  to  have  been  appointed 

'  Within  the  space  of  three  or  four  lines  we  have  ov\fa- 
vufOdOTOQ,  ira^fiorjTOiy  ayto^XaoroQ. 

Arnlreas  Cretcnsis,  quoted  by  Gicseler,  ii.  p.  313. 
K 


130  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

by  Pope  Sergius  I.,  in  695.  The  growth  of  legendary- 
fancies  which  led  to  that  of  the  Assumption^  was 
gradual  and  involved  in  much  obscurity.  The  words 
of  Symeon  in  St.  Luke  ii.,  35.  Vea,  a  sword  shall 
pie?re  through  thy  own  soul  also,  were  understood  by 
some  at  a  very  early  period  to  imply  that  the  Virgin 
Mary  was  to  suffer  martyrdom.  Origen  argued  against 
tliis  notion  ;  pointing  out  that  a  material  sword  does 
not  pierce  the  soul,  but  the  body.  Then,  the  very 
silence  of  Scripture  respecting  her  end  caused  various 
legends  to  spring  up.  As  early  as  the  time  of  Epi- 
phanius  some  held  this  silence  to  be  a  warrant  for  sup- 
posing that  she  had  never  really  died,  but  had  been 
taken  to  God,  as  Elias  was.  She  was  the  Woman  in 
the  Apocalypse,  pursued  by  the  Dragon,  to  whom  were 
given  the  wings  of  an  eagle,  that  she  should  flee  into 
the  wilderness  and  escape  him.  A  later  form  of  the 
legend  was  that  she  had  been  buried  in  the  valley  of 
Jehoshaphat,  and  afterwards  caught  up  into  heaven. 
Gregory  of  Tours,  in  the  sixth  century,  gave  cur- 
rency to  a  more  circumstantial  account,  in  which  the 
apostles  were  said  to  have  been  summoned  by  a 
miraculous  call  from  their  various  scenes  of  labour, 
to  be  present  at  the  bedside  of  the  Virgin  on  the  eve 
of  her  departure.  This  story,  by  whomsoever  in- 
vented, is  related  most  fully  and  minutely  by  John 
of  Damascus,   or  at  any  rate  by  the  author  of  the 

"The  term  assujuptio  is  used  of  the  death  of  saints,  with- 
out implying  anything  miraculous."  Robertson  :  "  Hist,  of 
the  Christian  Church,"  vol.  ii.,  p.  232  n.  The  statements  in 
the  text  are  based  almost  entirely  on  the  authorities  quoted  by 
Gieseler  and  Robertson. 


SERMONS.  I  3  I 

second  of  the  three  homilies  on  the  Assumption. 
He  cites  it  as  contained  in  a  history  of  Eutliy- 
mius.  As  the  only  Euthymius  who  would  naturally 
be  called  an  historian  was  the  Euthymius  Zigabenus 
who  lived  in  the  reign  of  Alexius  Comnenus,  more 
than  three  centuries  later,  a  good  deal  of  doubt  is 
thrown  on  this  *'  Euthymiac  History,"  and  Cave  goes 
so  far  as  to  consider  the  citation  proof  of  a  later 
authorship.  However  this  may  be,  it  is  in  this 
homily  that  the  legend  of  the  Assumption  first 
appears  in  full  detail.  According  to  it,  the  Emperor 
Marcian,  and  Pulcheria,  whose  vow  of  perpetual 
virginity  would  interest  her  in  the  subject,  sent  to 
Juvenal,  Bishop  of  Jerusalem,  to  inquire  what  the 
end  of  the  Virgin  Mary  had  been.  Juvenal,  says  the 
preacher,  thus  replied  :^ — "In  the  holy  and  divinely- 
inspired  Scriptures,  indeed,  nothing  is  recorded  ot 
the  departure  of  the  Holy  Mary,  Mother  of  God.  But 
from  an  ancient  and  most  true  tradition,  we  have 
received,  that  at  the  time  of  her  glorious  falling 
asleep  all  the  holy  apostles,  who  were  going  through 
the  world  for  the  salvation  of  the  nations,  borne  aloft 
in  a  moment  of  time,  came  together  to  Jerusalem  : 
and  when  they  were  near  her  they  had  a  vision  of 
angels,  and  divine  melody  was  heard  ;  and  then  with 
divine  and  more  than  heavenly  melody  she  delivered 
her  holy  soul  into  the  hands  of  God  in  an  unspeak- 
able manner.     But  that  which  had  borne  God,  being 

'  The  translation  which  follows  is  Mr.   Meyrick's,  from  his 
article  on   Mary  the  Virgin,    in    Smith's   "Dictionary  of  the 
IJible,"  vol.  ii.,  p.  269.     With  a  version  by  such  a  scholar  ready 
made,  it  would  be  superfluous  to  translate  the  passage  afresh. 
K    2 


17,2  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

carried  with  angelic  and  apostolic  psalmody,  with 
funeral  rites,  was  deposited  in  a  coffin  at  Gethsemane. 
In  this  place  the  chorus  and  singing  of  the  angels 
continued  three  whole  days.  But  after  three  days, 
on  the  angelic  music  ceasing,  those  of  the  apostles 
who  were  present  opened  the  tomb  ;  as  one  of  them, 
Thomas,  had  been  absent,  and  on  his  arrival  wished 
to  adore  the  body  which  had  borne  God.  But  her 
all-glorious  body  they  could  not  find  ;  but  they  found 
the  linen  clothes  lying,  and  they  were  filled  with  an 
ineffable  odour  of  sweetness  which  proceeded  from 
them.  Then  they  closed  the  coffin.  And  they  were 
astonished  at  the  mysterious  wonder ;  and  they  came 
to  no  other  conclusion  than  that  He  who  had  chosen 
to  take  flesh  of  the  Virgin  Mary,  and  to  become  a 
man,  and  be  born  of  her — God  the  Word,  the  Lord 
of  Glory — and  had  preserved  her  virginity  after  birth, 
was  also  pleased,  after  her  departure,  to  honour  her 
immaculate  and  unpolluted  body  with  incorruption, 
and  to  translate  her  before  the  common  resurrection 
of  all  men."i  The  special  day  (Aug.  15th)  to  be 
kept  in  memory  of  this  passing  of  the  Mother  of  the 
Lord,  is  said  to  have  been  fixed  by  the  Emperor 
Maurice  (a.d.  582-602). 

The  reader  will  now  be  in  a  position  to  understand 
^he  general  drift  of  these  homilies,  and  to  anticipate 

^  The  passage  is  at  p.  748  of  vol.  iii.  of  Migne's  ed.  It 
should  be  added  that  in  the  "  De  Divinis  Nominibus"  of  the 
Pseudo-Areopagita,  cap.  iii.,  mention  is  made  of  some  of  the 
apostles  being  assembled  to  witness  the  Virgin's  decease,  and 
that  Ilierotheus,  the  teacher  of  Dionysius,  surpassed  all  the 
others  in  the  divine  hymns  to  whicli  he  then  gave  utterance. 


SERMONS.  133 

the  kind  of  handling  which  the  subject  receives.  It 
is  not  easy,  nor  perhaps  desirable,  to  reproduce  much 
from  them  in  an  English  dress.  The  subject,  to  a 
member  of  the  Church  of  England,  is  a  painful  one. 
The  style,  to  an  English  mind,  is  opi)ressively  forced 
and  exaggerated.  Joachim  and  Anna,  the  traditional 
parents  of  the  Virgin  Mary,  are  addressed  under 
every  conceivable  figure.  "  Rational  pair  of  turtle- 
doves "  is  the  most  frequently  recurring.  The  birtli 
of  their  child  is  the  bringing  forth  of  a  conch-shell, 
hereafter  to  contain  the  most  precious  of  pearls. 
They  are  the  planters  of  a  vine  destined  to  bear  the 
fairest  fruit.  They  are  the  rearers  of  a  ladder  that  is 
to  connect  earth  with  heaven.  If  such  are  the  terms 
applied  to  them,  the  language  in  which  the  Virgin 
herself  is  ai)ostrophised  may  perhaps  be  imagined. 
There  is  hardly  a  metaphor  in  the  Song  of  Solomon 
which  is  not  pressed  into  the  service.  No  doubt  there 
are  some  good  qualities  brought  into  play  by  such  a 
method.  While  modern  commentators,  especially  of 
one  particular  school,  are  fond  of  reiterating  a  few 
texts,  or,  at  any  rate,  resorting  to  a  few  portions  of 
Holy  Writ  for  their  authorities,  the  older  ones  show 
a  command  of  a  far  wider  field.  No  book,  either  of 
the  Old  Testament  or  the  New,  is  neglected  by  them. 
The  correctness  or  propriety  of  their  references  may 
often  be  a  matter  of  dispute  ;  but  the  fact  remainn, 
that  the  minds  of  men  like  John  of  Damascus  must 
have  been  saturated  with  the  language  of  the  Bible 
to  a  degree  we  can  hardly  realise.      Dr.   Neale^  has 

'  "Mediivval  Preachers,"  1S56,  Intro<].  pp.  xxv.-xxxi. 


134  ST.    JOHN   OF   DAMASCUS. 

illustrated  this  subject  by  a  comparison  of  the  texts 
cited  in  two  parallel  discourses  on  the  same  topic, 
one  by  a  mediaeval  preacher,  the  other  by  a  modern 
divine.  But  this  method  of  comparison  alone  would 
not  give  anything  like  an  adequate  idea  of  the  dif- 
ference. The  Bible  phraseology  seems  to  come  so 
naturally  and  spontaneously  to  the  lips  of  the 
preacher  in  the  former  case,  that  his  language  is 
coloured  by  it  in  a  manner  no  marginal  references 
will  indicate.  It  would  indeed  be  a  burden  too  great 
for  any  editor  to  have  to  analyse  the  expressions  in 
such  homilies  as  those  now  before  us,  and  assign 
every  word  or  sentence  there  quoted  to  its  original 
author.  To  take  but  a  single  example  from  the  first 
of  the  sermons  on  the  Nativity  of  the  Virgin  (c.  vi.). 
Among  various  metaphors  by  which  the  mother  of  the 
Lord  is  there  described,  one  is  taken  from  the  words 
of  the  Psalm  :  This  is  the  hill  which  God  desireth  to 
dwell  in.  As  there  is  not  a  single  marginal  reference 
provided  by  the  editor  throughout  this  chapter,  it 
might  easily  escape  a  reader  even  well  acquainted 
with  his  English  Bible,  that  the  rest  of  the  passage  is 
a  quotation  from  the  same  Psalm  :  The  mountain  of 
God  is  a  rich  moji?itain,  a  mountain  curdled  as  cheese, 
a  rich  mountain.  Nor  is  it  without  some  considera- 
tion that  we  identify  this  with  our  own  version  : 
The  hill  of  God  is  as  the  hill  of  Bashan,  an  high  hill, 
as  the  hill  of  Bashan.'^     And   just  as   the  reader's 

^  Ps.  Ixviii.  (in  the  Vulgate,  Ixvii.)  15.  The  Latin  Vulgate 
agrees  verbally  with  the  Septuagint,  of  which  the  above  is  a 
literal  translation.  It  is  another  instance  of  the  confusion 
arising  from  words  being  treated  in  one  version  as  proper 
names,  and  in  another  not. 


SERMONS.  135 

eye  might  fail  to  detect  this  passing  allusion,  so 
might  it  be  with  him  in  innumerable  instances.  It  is 
in  truth  no  unprofitable  exercise  to  study  slowly  and 
patiently  the  expositions  of  such  a  preacher  as  John 
of  Damascus,  if  only  to  widen  and  deepen  our 
acquaintance  with  the  language  of  the  Bible. 

But  after  making  this  full  allowance,  and  admittmg 
with  equal  readiness  the  beauty — occasionally  the 
very  great  beauty — of  some  of  the  figures  employed, 
the  fact  remains  that  the  subject  itself  is  stifled 
beneath  the  load  of  embellishments  with  which  it  is 
overlaid. 

The  twelfth  in  order  of  the  homilies,  and  the  last 
which  we  shall  notice  here,  is  a  panegyric  on 
St.  Chrysostom.  There  is  a  certain  fitness  in  John 
sumamed  Chrysorroas,  from  the  golden  flow  of  his 
eloquence,  being  the  one  to  deliver  an  eulogy  on 
"John  of  the  golden  mouth."  And  in  the  opening 
sentence  the  orator  seems  conscious  of  this,  though 
he  modestly  disavows  any  equality  with  his  task. 
With  the  name  of  his  native  river,  it  may  be,  the 
fair-flowing  Chrysorroas,  suggested  to  his  mind  by 
Chrysostom's  name,  he  begins  : — "  They  that  would 
essay  the  task  of  pronouncing  thy  encomium.  Golden 
Joannes,  should  have  had  the  rare  gift  of  a  golden 
tongue  to  utter  a  stream  of  golden  elo<[uence."  But  for 
some  reason,  the  style  of  this  discourse,  especially 
towards  the  beginning,  is  laboured  and  obscure.  There 
is  not,  so  far  as  I  am  aware,  any  reason  to  doubt  its 
genuineness ;  and  the  preacher  has  no  temptation,  as 
was  the  case  with  the  sermons  on  the  Virgin  Mary,  to 


136  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

be  led  into  regions  of  obscurity  in  the  search  for  far- 
fetched and  recondite  allusions.  But  whether  it  be 
from  a  certain  oppressive  consciousness  of  the  fame 
of  his  subject  as  a  sacred  orator,  or  from  an  effort 
to  write  on  this  occasion  with  more  classic  symmetry 
of  form,  the  Greek  is  undoubtedly  stiffer  and  more 
laboured  than  is  usual  with  Damascene. 

After  praising  the  excellent  nature  that  was  in 
Chrysostom,  his  unwearied  zeal,  his  orthodoxy  (under 
which  head  he  is  praised  for  upholding  what  John  of 
Damascus  is  never  weary  of  adverting  to — the  twofold 
nature  and  double  will  of  Christ);  he  continues  : — 
"  O  that  I  had  given  me  a  tongue  worthy  of  thy 
panegyric  !  O  that  I  were  brought  back  to  that  day 
of  old  time,  when  there  beamed  forth  the  divine  fire 
under  the  likeness  of  tongues,  and  rested  in  one  form 
and  in  many  measures  on  each  of  the  apostles,  that 
there  might  be  preached  in  diverse  tongues  the  one 
unbroken  doctrine  of  the  faith !  That  doctrine 
brought  together  into  one  what  had  been  separated, 
by  doing  away  with  the  manifold  error  which  they 
that  built  the  tower  in  ancient  days  conspired  to 
bring  in,  when  they  received  the  reward  of  their  im- 
piety in  the  confusion  of  tongues,  and,  through  that, 
in  divided  counsels.  O  that  I  had  a  share  of  that 
tongue  of  the  Spirit,  so  as  to  rehearse  the  more  than 
human  excellences  of  this  man  who  was  filled  with 
the  Spirit.  I  would  bid  an  ocean  of  words  then  be 
ready  at  my  call,  and  a  profoundest  depth  of  thoughts. 
But  the  grace  of  the  Spirit  yields  not  to  words.  For 
he  who,  without  the  Spirit,  would  declare  the  things 
of  the  Spirit,  is  as  a  man  who  chooses  to  see  without 


SERMONS.  137 

light,  and  has  darkness  for  the  guide  of  his  vision  " 

(civ.). 

The  more  strictly  biographical  i)art  of  the  discourse 
begins  at  c.  viii.,  and  this  chapter  may  serve  as  a 
specimen  of  Damascene's  style  in  handling  what 
need  be  no  more  than  simple  narrative.  In  a 
plain  English  version  it  is  not,  of  course,  possible 
to  convey  the  ornate  character  of  the  Greek.  After 
describing  Chrysostom's  self-discipline  in  early  youth, 
he  proceeds  ; — *'  He  now  goes  for  instruction  to 
Meletius,  Patriarch  of  the  Church  at  Antioch,  a  man 
adorned  with  very  many  divine  graces,  whose  fame 
for  holy  living  and  teaching  was  in  every  one's 
mouth.  He  received  him  when  now  about  the  age 
of  eighteen,  and  became  enamoured  of  the  lovely 
qualities  of  his  heart.  Foreseeing  with  prophetic  eye 
the  youth's  future  career,  he  grounded  him  in  the 
doctrines  of  religion,  and  gave  a  serious  tone  to  his 
character  and  manners,  and  after  tracing  in  him  the 
fair  outlines  of  truth,  thus  at  length  by  the  laver  of 
regeneration  portrayed  in  him  the  image  of  Christ, 
fairer  than  the  cJiilJren  of  tnen,  as  shining  forth  with 
the  beauty  of  the  Godhead.  He  was  about  thirty 
years  of  age,  and  thus  arrived  at  the  perfection  both 
of  his  bodily  and  spiritual  stature,  when,  after  being 
promoted  to  the  rank  of  reader  and  teacher  of  the 
divine  oracles,  under  the  impulse  of  heavenly  love  he 
removed  his  dwelling  to  the  desert.  He  sought  to 
wither  up  the  ever-swelling,  ever-fermenting  lusts  of 
the  flesh,  that  the  higher  nature  might  not  be 
enslaved  by  the  lower.  For  these  do  both  lust,  the 
one  against   the  other,  and  the  decay  of  the  bodily 


138  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

tabernacle  gives,  as  is  meet,  the  supremacy  to  the 
soul.  And  so,  resorting  to  the  mountains  hard  by, 
he  was  led  to  an  old  man,  of  Syrian  speech  but  of  no 
mean  knowledge,  who  had  reached  the  heights  of 
philosophic  self-control.  For  four  years  he  took  the 
pattern  of  austerity  from  him  ;  and  after  easily  gain- 
ing the  mastery  over  every  kind  of  indulgence,  since 
he  had  reason  for  his  companion  in  the  strife,  he 
longed  for  seclusion,  and  became  a  dweller  in  a 
remote  spot,  delighting  to  have  a  cave  for  his  resort, 
the  gymnasium  and  arena  of  his  virtue.  What 
struggles  did  he  here  undergo,  receiving  the  comfort 
of  the  Spirit  in  proportion  to  the  multitude  of  his 
pains  !  What  steps  of  ascent  to  the  Spirit  did  he  lay 
and  prepare  in  his  heart,  as  he  went  forward  from 
strength  to  strength,  and  by  means  of  work  and  con- 
templation both,  exterminated  from  his  soul  and  body 
every  device  of  Egypt."  ^ 

It  is  not  our  object  here  to  follow  the  events  of 
Chrysostom's  life,  even  in  the  shadowy  outline  pre- 
sented to  us  in  this  encomium.  How  extremely 
shadowy  the  outline  is,  may  be  inferred  from  the 
following  passage,  in  which  it  will  be  observed  that  a 
brief  allusion,  in  one  single  line,  is  all  that  is  given  to 

'  A  good  (leal  of  this  is  taken,  with  but  little  alteration,  from 
the  contemporary  account  of  Palladius,  Bishop  of  Helenopolis. 
The  English  reader  may  verify  this  by  comparing  with  the 
above  passage  the  extracts  from  Palladius  quoted  in  the  account 
of  St.  Chrysostom  in  the  *'  Dictionary  of  Christian  Biography," 
vol.  i.,  pp.  519-20.  The  original  will  be  found  in  Gallandius  : 
"Biblioth.  Vet.  Patr."  viii.,  p.  271.  That  there  should  be  no 
hint  of  this  in  Lequien's  edition,  is  one  proof  how  much  is  still 
wanting  to  supplement  that  edition,  meritorious  as  it  is. 


SERMONS.  139 

John's  ministrations  at  Antioch  ;  while  his  elevation 
to  the  see  of  Constantinople  is  described — if  descrip- 
tion it  can  be  called — in  language  so  metaphorical 
that  it  costs  the  reader  some  little  pains  to  get  at  the 
facts  implied.  *'  And  so,"  the  account  continues 
(c.  ix.),  "  after  spending  two  years  in  the  cave,  keep- 
ing his  soul  as  well  as  his  body  in  sleepless  watch, 
and  engrossed,  as  if  set  free  from  the  flesh,  in  the 
study  of  the  divine  oracles,  he  banished  all  ignorance 
and  gave  admission  to  the  light  of  the  true  knowledge. 
And  if  he  was  forced  to  take  some  measure  of  sleep 
for  nature's  recovery  and  refreshment,  he  discharged 
this  duty  to  nature  in  such  a  degree  only,  as  not  once 
to  lie  down,  either  by  night  or  by  day,  during  those 
two  years."  In  this  way  his  bodily  passions  were 
subdued.  "  Then  returning  back  again  to  his  native 
place  (Antioch),  and  coming  to  be  in  the  rank  of  a 
presbyter  of  the  Church,  he  repaid  the  cost  of  his 
maintenance,  like  a  grateful  son,  to  the  mother  who  had 
nursed  him.  And  then,  in  God's  providence,  he  was 
transferred  to  the  empress  of  cities  (Constantinople),  and 
married  the  daughter  of  the  great  High-priest  "(ex.). 

We  have  to  recall  the  words  of  the  Psalmist  about 
the  "  King's  daughter,  all  glorious  within  "  (Ps.  xlv.  13), 
before  we  perceive  this  last  sentence  to  mean  that 
Chrysostom  became  bishop  of  the  Imperial  Church 
of  Constantinople,  which  he  thus  espoused  as  a 
bride.^     And,  in  general,  we  may  say  of  the  homilies 

'  Damascene  has  no  excuse  for  this  high-flown  style  in  the 
passage  of  Palladius,  which  is  clearly  his  authority.  That  writer 
simply  says:  "He  is  thus  brought  and  elected  Bishop  of  the 
Church  of  Constantinople."     Gallandius,  ubi.  sup.,  p.  272. 


140  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

of  John  of  Damascus,  in  closing  this  review  of  them, 
that  while  they  show  a  man^ellous  familiarity  with  the 
language  of  Holy  Scripture,  and  are  at  times  lit  up 
with  flashes  of  real  eloquence,  they  leave  a  vague 
sense  of  unreality  behind  them,  from  the  way  in 
which  facts  are  alluded  to  instead  of  being  plainly 
stated,  and  from  the  constant  preference  of  the 
mystical  sense  to  the  literal. 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS.  l  .}  I 


CHAPTER     X. 

HYMNS. 

Under  the  general  title  of  hymns  it  is  convenient  to 
include  all  Damascene's  poetical  compositions,  as 
they  are  all  on  sacred  subjects.  But  the  reader  must 
not  be  misled  by  the  term.  AVith  us  the  word  is 
suggestive  of  metre  and  rhyme.  But  in  the  Eastern 
Church  it  is  properly  applied  to  such  passages  from 
the  bible  as  the  Angels'  Song  (St.  Luke  ii.  14),  Glory 
to  God  in  tJie  highest,  etc.,  hence  called  the  Angelic 
Hymn  ;  the  Song  of  the  Seraphim  (Is.  vi.  3),  known 
as  the  Tersanctus ;  and  the  like.^  In  the  Latin 
Church  the  term  is  extended  to  include  Introits, 
(Jraduals,  and  other  sentences  for  singing.  It  will 
thus  be  seen  that,  in  speaking  of  St.  John  of  Damascus 
as  the  **  chief  of  the  Greek  Hymnodists,"'-  we  must 
not  form  our  conception  oi  his  work  in  that  depart- 
ment from  modern  hymnology.  In  point  of  fact,  the 
extant  pieces  which  have  gained  for  him  that  proud 
title   are   but   few   in   number;-^   and    of  these   the 

'  See  the  Glossaries  to  Hammond's  *' Liturgies  Eastern  and 
Western"  (1878),  and  Littlcdale's  "Offices  .  .  of  the  Eastern 
Church  "  (1863),  under  the  word  "  Hymnus." 

'  Liltledale,  p.  278.  To  the  same  effect  the  late  Dr.  Neale, 
in  his  "  Hymns  of  the  Eastern  Church,"  third  ed.,  p.  31. 

•*  In  Lequien's  original  edition,  under  the  heading  "Cannina," 


142  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

majority  are  not  in  verse  at  all,  but  in  rhythmical 
prose.  A  few  words  of  explanation  may  be  desirable 
to  enable  the  reader  to  understand  the  nature  of 
these  prose  hymns, ^ 

In  the  Early  Church,  when  forms  adapted  for 
singing  began  to  be  required,  a  difficulty  must  have 
been  experienced  from  the  very  outset  as  to  the 
metre  or  measure  in  which  they  were  to  be  com- 
posed. Probably  the  earliest  of  all  were  in  a  kind 
of  measured  prose,  such  as  the  one  quoted  in 
Eph.  v.  14  : — 

"Awake,  thou  that  sleepest, 
And  arise  from  the  dead, 
And  Christ  shall  give  thee  light." 


were  given  (i)  three  hymns  in  iambic  metre,  on  the  "  Theo- 
gonia,"  or  Birth  of  Christ,  the  "  Theophania,"  or  Epiphany, 
and  the  "Pentecost,"  respectively;  (2)  four  canons,  on 
"Easter,"  the  "Ascension,"  the  "  Transfigi:ration,"  and  the 
"Annunciation;"  and  (3)  a  Prayer  in  so-called  anacreontics. 
These  occupy  pp.  817-856  of  vol.  iii.  of  Migne's  edition  ;  and 
there  are  added  to  them,  as  an  appendix  (pp.  1364-1408),  (i) 
a  canon  on  the  passing  of  the  Virgin  Mary ;  (2)  stanzas 
("  Idiomela  ")  used  in  the  Office  for  Burial  of  the  Dead  ;  and 
(3)  six  canons  found  by  Cardinal  Mai  in  a  MS.  in  the  Vatican. 
There  are  thus,  in  all,  four  pieces  in  classical  metres  ;  one  set 
of  verses  on  no  fixed  pattern,  hence  called  "Idiomela;"  and 
eleven  canons  or  hymns  in  rhythmical  prose.  No  doubt  the 
number  might  be  largely  increased. 

'  The  description  which  follows  is  taken  entirely  from  Dr. 
Neale's  "History  of  the  Holy  Eastern  Church,"  part  i. 
(General  Introduction),  1850,  Bk.  iv.,  c.  iii.  ;  and  from  the 
Introduction  to  his  "Hymns  of  the  Eastern  Church"  before 
mentioned.  While  not  able  to  share  Dr.  Neale's  views  on  the 
Eastern  Church,  in  many  respects,   I  must  bear  my  tribute  of 


HYMNS.  143 

W'lien  more  strictly  metrical  compositions  were  de- 
sired, the  question  of  their  metre  would  not  be  easily 
settled.  There  were  of  course,  ready  to  hand,  the 
familiar  classical  metres  of  Greece  and  Rome.  But 
one  of  the  chief  of  these,  the  hexameter,  in  which  the 
great  poems  of  Homer  and  Virgil  were  written,  was 
unsuited  to  Western  use  for  various  reasons.  In  the 
first  place,  it  was  not  truly  a  native  of  Italy.  It  was 
an  exotic,  introduced  into  the  Latin  language  by 
writers  who  avowedly  took  the  Greek  poets  as  their 
models.  In  the  next  place,  a  large  number  of  words, 
and  those  of  the  most  frequent  occurrence  in  Chris- 
tian worship,  could  not  be  admitted  into  this  metre 
without  violating  its  laws.  Once  more,  the  power 
of  old  associations  would  have  been  a  dangerous 
element  to  reckon  with,  if  the  mythology  of  heathen 
Greece  and  Rome  had  been  suggested — as  it  could 
hardly  have  failed  to  be  suggested — by  the  words 
and  phrases  unavoidably  used,  and  even  by  the  very 
roll  of  the  hexameter  itself.  The  same  objections 
would  apply,  in  varying  degrees,  to  other  well-known 
metres,  such  as  those  lyric  ones  of  Greece  to  which 
Horace,  with  consummate  skill,  had  bent  the  more 
stubborn  genius  of  the  Latin.  Hence  different  cx- 
l)edients  were  resorted  to,  to  avoid  the  difficulty. 
In  the  Western  Church  there  was  a  strong  tendency 
to  revert  to  the  old  popular  metre  of  Italy,  its  own 
genuine  product,   known   as   the   Saturnian.      This, 

respectful  admiration  to  the  learning  and  unbounded  industry 
which  have  made  his  work  the  chief  English  authority  on  this 
subject.  As  such,  it  is  frequently  quoted  by  Daniel  in  the 
fourth  volume  of  his  "Codex  Liturgicus. *' 


144  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

though  made  unfashionable  for  a  tmie  m  the  Roman 
literary  world  by  the  preference  shown  to  the  Greek, 
had  probably  never  died  out,  nor  ceased  to  enshrine 
the  songs  of  the  people. ^  Hence,  its  use  in  church 
hymnody  would  be  a  revival  rather  than  a  novelty, 
and  would  appeal  with  genial  force  to  the  national 
sentiment. 

In  the  Greek  Church,  as  the  metres  borrowed  by 
Virgil  and  Horace  were  indigenous,  they  had,  as 
might  be  expected,  a  longer  struggle  for  existence. 
St.  Gregory  of  Nazianzus,  for  example,  wrote  in  the 
ordinary  classical  metres ;  and  his  iambics  have  much 
of  the  Attic  grace  and  spirit  in  them.  But  even 
against  the  iambic  metre,  as  framed  on  strict  rules, 
there  were  objections  ever  growing  in  strength.  Its 
use  brought  back  the  associations  of  the  Attic  stage. 
The  increasing  power  of  accent  over  quantity  made 
it  more  and  more  inconvenient  to  conform  to  its 
proper  laws.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Greek  language, 
in  this  its  period  of  decadence,  had  not,  for  various 
reasons,  the  resource  which  its  sister  tongue  pos- 
sessed and  developed  so  freely — that  of  rhyme.  And 
hence,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  by  the  beginning  of  the 
eighth   century,  the   use   of  verse  had  in  the  great 

'  See  on  this  subject  the  introduction  to  Trench's  "Sacred 
Latin  Poetry,"  and  also  that  to  Kynaston's  "Miscellaneous 
Poems."  The  lines  in  this  metre  were  scanned  by  accent,  as  is 
the  case  in  modern  languages,  without  regard  to  the  quantity  of 
the  syllables.  The  following  stanza  will  give  a  good  idea  of  the 
Saturnian  metre  : — 

"  Go  fetch  my  sword,  Excalibar,    l  Go  saddle  me  my  steed, 
Now  by  my  faye  that  grim  baron  |  Shall  rue  this  ruthful  deed." 


HYMNS.  145 

majority  of  cases  given  way  to  tliat  of  rhytlimical 
prose. 

The  completest  form  in  which  these  prose  hymns 
are  found  is  that  of  the  canon.  A  canon  properly 
consists  of  nine  odes,  and  each  ode  is  divided  into 
a  var)-ing  number  of  stanzas — if  these  short  sentences, 
or  groups  of  sentences,  without  rhyme,  can  be  pro- 
perly so  called — termed  "  troparia."  The  number  of 
troparia  in  an  ode  is  often  five,  sometimes  less. 
Those  in  each  ode  follow  the  pattern  of  one,  some- 
times printed  at  the  beginning  of  the  ode,  sometimes 
at  the  end ;  but  in  the  Greek  service-books  always 
distinguished  by  inverted  commas,  called  a  "hirmos." 
As  the  hirmos  takes  its  name  from  *'  drawing  "  the 
others  after  it,  so  the  ensuing  troparia  are  so-called 
from  their  "  turning  "  towards  it  as  their  model.  One 
or  two  examples  of  verses  selected  from  the  English 
version  of  the  Psalms,  which  happen  to  correspond 
in  rhythm,  are  given  by  Dr.  Neale  in  illustration  of 
this  peculiarity  of  the  Greek  canon.  Thus,  if  verse 
13  of  the  c.xixth  Psalm  be  taken  as  a  hirmos  : — 

"  I  will  talk  of  Thy  commandments  : 
and  have  res{x;ct  unto  Thy  ways." 

then  as  troparia  to  it,  or  verses  presenting  the  same 
rhythm  (in  this  case  an  almost  complete  trochaic), 
the  following  would  be  found  to  correspond  : — 

"  With  my  lips  have  I  been  telling  : 
of  all  the  judgments  of  Thy  mouth." 

(cxix.  15.) 
"  O  do  well  unto  Thy  servant  : 
that  I  may  live,  and  kccj)  Thy  word." 

(cxix.  17.) 

L 


146  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

"When  the  Lord  shall  build  up  Sion  : 
and  when  His  glory  shall  appear. " 

(cii.  16.) 

Such  a  series  of  troparia  as  the  above,  not  limited 
to  three,  but  not  as  a  rule  exceeding  five,  would  con- 
stitute an  ode.  The  last  troparion  in  each  ode 
being  to  the  praise  of  the  Holy  Virgin,  as  the 
Theofokos,  or  Mother  of  God,  is  entitled  Theotokion. 
Nine  such  odes  make  a  canon  ;  the  number  nine 
being  interpreted  as  a  three-fold  repetition  of  the 
number  of  Persons  in  the  Blessed  Trinity.  More- 
over, as  an  assistance  to  the  memory,  these  canons 
are  often  acrostichal.  That  is,  each  troparion  begins 
with  one  of  the  letters,  taken  in  order,  of  a  line  or 
lines  (usually  iambic),  prefixed  to  the  canon,  and 
having  reference  to  its  subject.  The  alphabetic 
arrangement  of  the  cxixth  Psalm  will  make  this  more 
intelligible  to  the  reader.  If,  for  example  (to  take 
the  illustration  provided  by  Dr.  Neale),  the  acrostich 
were  : — 

"To  rev'rend  athletes  pour  a  rev'rend  song," 

(that  being  a  literal  rendering  of  one  of  the  headings 
in  the  service-book,  and  coinciding  in  the  number 
of  letters),  then  the  troparia  of  the  odes  in  succes- 
sion would  begin  with  the  letters  T.,  O.,  R.,  and  so 
on  to.  the  end. 

Some  little  notion  may  be  thus  formed  of  the 
nature  of  Greek  hymnody  in  this  particular  depart- 
ment. It  will  be  seen  how  widely  it  differs  from  the 
system  on  which  the  great  hymns  of  the  Latin 
Church,    whether   rhyming   or  not,  are   composed ; 


HYMNS.  147 

and  how  much  less  congenial  it  is  to  the  spirit  of 
our  own  hymnody.  In  the  freedom  which  measured 
prose  allows,  checked  at  the  same  time  by  the 
necessity  of  correspondence  between  the  hirmos 
and  its  troparia,  we  have  something  more  nearly 
analogous  to  the  strophe  and  antistrophe  of  a  Greek 
choral  ode,  than  to  anything  in  modern  poetry.  The 
most  famous  of  these  canons  is  that  for  Easter  Day, 
the  first  in  order  of  those  remaining  to  us  under  the 
name  of  St.  John  of  Damascus.^  It  is  a  lasting 
glory  to  any  Christian  poet  to  have  furnished  the 
song  of  triumph  and  thanksgiving  with  which  this 
greatest  of  days  in  the  Church's  year  is  celebrated. 
And  in  the  Greek  Church  there  are  circumstances 
which  render  the  services  on  this  day  peculiarly 
impressive.  The  Latin  solemnities  at  the  Church  of 
the  Holy  Sepulchre,  with  the  wild  excitement  of  the 
sudden  change  from  darkness  to  light— the  light  of 
innumerable  tapers  kindled  in  swift  succession — are 
well  known.  Not  less  striking  arc  the  accompani- 
ments of  Easter  Day,  as  it  is  ushered  in  at  Athens 
for  example,  with  the  roll  of  drums,  the  firing  of 
cannon,  the  sudden  blaze  of  countless  lights,  and  the 
chanting  of  what  an  eye-witness  describes  as  a 
"  glorious  old  hymn  of  victory."  The  beginning  of 
this  "glorious  old  hymn  of  victory,"  the  Easter  Hymn 

'  As  printed  in  Lcquien's  edition,  this  is  not  divided  into 
o<les,  and  thus  docs  not  present  the  outward  appearance  of 
a  canon.  In  the  Pentecostarion,  one  of  the  numerous  Greek 
ser\ice-books,  from  which  Dr.  Neale  translates  it  (p.  880),  it 
is  properly  arranged,  with  the  intervening  "Catabasix," 
"  Ectcnx,"  and  the  like. 

L   2 


148  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

of  Damascene,  is  familiar  to  many  from  the  poetical 
version  of  Dr.  Neale  : — 

"  'Tis  the  Day  of  Resurrection  : 

Earth  !  tell  it  out  abroad  ! 
The  Passover  of  gladness  ! 

The  Passover  of  God  ! 
From  Death  to  Life  eternal, 

From  this  world  to  the  sky, 
Our  Christ  hath  brought  us  over, 

With  hymns  of  victory." 

But  it  may  give  a  truer  idea  of  its  real  form  to 
subjoin  Dr.  Neale's  literal  rendering  of  one  or  two 
of  the  odes  composing  it : — 

Ode  3. — The  Hirmos. 

"QL  ome,  and  let  us  drink  the  new  drink,  not  produced  by 
miracle  from  the  barren  rock,  but  the  fountain  of  immor- 
tality, Christ  having  burst  from  the  tomb,  in  Whom  we  are  esta- 
blished." 

^  ow  are  all  things  filled  with  light ;  earth  and  heaven, 
and  that  which  is  under  the  earth.  Now  then  let  all  creation 
keep  festival  for  the  Resurrection  of  Christ,  in  which  it  is 
established. 

^  esterday,  O  Christ,  I  was  buried  together  with  Thee; 
to-day  with  Thee  arising  I  arise.  Yesterday  I  was  crucified 
together  with  Thee  :  glorify  me,  O  Saviour,  together  with  Thy- 
self in  Thy  Kingdom. 

Ode  4. — Hirmos.  -^ 

"3Epon  thy  divine  watch-tower,  Habaccuk,  Prophet  of 
God,  stand  with  me  and  shew  the  Angel  of  Light  continually 
proclaiming,  To-day  is  salvation  to  the  world,  for  Christ,  as 
Almighty,  hath  arisen." 

(S'  hrist  appeared  as  a  male,  opened  the  Virgin's  womb  ; 
and,  as  mortal.  He  is  named  a  Lamb.     Spotless  is  our  Pascha 


HYMNS.  149 

called,  as  being  without  taste  of  blemish,  and,  as  true  God,  lit- 
is named  jx^rfect. 

>3  s  a  yearling  lamb,  our  blessed  Crown,  Christ,  was  of 
His  own  accord  sacrificed  as  the  expiatory  Pascha  for  all  ;  and 
again  shone  forth  to  us  from  the  tomb,  the  beautiful  Sun  of 
Righteousness. 

5  avid,  the  Divine  Father,  leapt  and  danced  before  the 
mystic  Ark  ;  and  the  holy  people  of  God,  beholding  the  forth- 
giving  of  the  symbols.  Let  us  rejoice  in  God,  for  that  Christ, 
as  Almighty,  hath  arisen. 

Of  the  other  hymns  of  [)amascene,  those  with 
which  English  readers  have  been  made  most  familiar, 
are  perhaps  the  Idiomela,  or  irregular  verses,  for 
All  Saints,  beginning  in  Dr.  Neale's  beautiful  ver- 
sion : — 

"Those  eternal  bowers 
Man  hath  never  trod," 

and  the  "  Sticlura  ^  of  the  Last  Kiss."  These  last 
are  the  solemn  verses  sung  by  the  grave-side,  in  the 
funeral  service  of  the  Eastern  Church,  while  the 
relatives  and  friends  of  the  deceased  advance  and 
give  a  parting  kiss  to  the  corpse  before  it  is  laid  in 
the  earth  ;  the  priest  doing  so  last  of  all.  The  open- 
ing lines,  as  rendered  by  the  same  translator,  are  as 
follows  :  — 

"Take  the  last  kiss,  the  last  for  ever  ! 
Yet  render  thanks  amid  your  gloom  : 
He,  sever'd  from  his  home  and  kindred. 
Is  passing  onwards  to  the  tomb. 


'  A  sticheron  is  a  verse,  or  short  hymn,  in  measured  prose, 
much  the  same  as  a  troparion  before  explained  ;  the  special 
name  given  to  the  latter  pointing  out  its  relation  to  the  motlel 
verse,  or  hirmos. 


150  ST.    JOHN   OF   DAMASCUS. 

For  earthly  labours,  earthly  pleasures, 
And  carnal  joys,  he  cares  no  more  : 
Where  are  his  kinsfolk  and  acquaintance  ? 
They  stand  upon  another  shore. 

Let  us  say,  around  him  pressed, 
Grant  him,  Lord,  eternal  rest  !" 

There  are  eight  Idiomela  composed  by  Damas- 
cene in  the  Funeral  Service,  one  for  each  tone.^  In 
Lequien's  edition  only  four  of  these  are  given,  but 
the  remainder  will  be  found  in  the  Euchologium.^ 
As  I  am  not  aware  that  they  have  ever  appeared  in 
an  English  version,  I  will  venture  to  give  the  follow- 
ing :— 

FUNERAL  HYMN. 
I. 
What  pride  of  life  abides  untouch'd  by  sorrow  ? 
What  earthly  glory  fades  not  on  the  morrow  ? 
Like  fleeting  shadows,  or  like  dreams  deceiving, 
One  moment  ours,  then  Death's  the  all-receiving. 
Then  let  Thy  face  upon  our  lost  one  shine  ; 
Cheer  him,  sweet  Saviour,  with  Thy  love  divine. 
And  give  repose  to  this  elect  of  Thine  ! 

II- 
Ah  me  !  the  agony  of  life  departing  : 
How  grieves  the  soul,  on  her  long  journey  starting  ! 

'  The  eight  tones,  or  modes,  referred  to,  answer  to  the  Gre- 
gorian in  the  Western  Church  ;  four,  called  authentic,  corres- 
ponding to  the  first,  third,  fifth,  and  seventh  Gregorian  ;  and 
the  other  four,  called  plagal,  corresponding  to  the  even  num- 
bers. A  ninth  is  sometimes  reckoned.  See  Neale's  "Eastern 
Church,"  p.  1046. 

2  Ed.  Venice  (1862),  p.  414. 


HYMNS.  1 

To  man  she  turns,  but  man  may  not  deliver, 
Nor  angels  save  from  crossing  the  dark  river. 

Then  pray  we,  Brothers,  heeding  hfe's  brief  space, 
For  rest  to  him  who  now  has  run  his  race. 
And  for  our  own  souls  Jesu's  boundless  grace. 

III. 
Vain,  vain  is  all,  if  not  the  grave  surviving  : 
Nor  fame  nor  riches  aid  us  in  our  striving. 
Companions  false  !  they  flee  at  Death's  arriving. 
Therefore  to  Christ  th'  eternal  let  us  pray 
For  rest  to  him  who  now  has  pass'd  away, 
In  yonder  realms  of  joy  and  endless  day. 

IV. 

Where  now  the  world,  with  all  its  fitful  passion  ? 

Where  now  its  changing  scene,  its  transient  fashion  ? 

Where  now  the  hoarded  gold,  the  silver  gleaming. 

The  hum  of  slaves  thro'  lordly  mansions  streaming? 
All  dust  and  ashes,  all  a  fleeting  cloud — 
Then  to  the  King  eternal  cry  aloud  : 
Vouchsafe,  O  Lord,  to  him  who  now  has  pass'd 
Thine  endless  bliss,  and  rest  with  Thee  at  last. 


Methinks  I  hear  the  voice  prophetic  crying 

/  a/n  but  dust  and  ashes  !  and  see  lying 

The  fleshless  tenants  of  the  tomb  :  and  sighing 

"  Who  now  is  king?"  I  ask,  "  who  warrior  here  ? 
Who  saint,  who  sinner?  all  alike  appear." — 
Then  from  his  toils  Thy  servant,  Lord,  release  ; 
And  grant  him,  with  the  blest,  eternal  peace. 

VI. 

Of  things  unseen  and  seen,  at  Thy  decreeing, 
Beneath  Thy  moulding  hand  I  took  my  being  : 
Earth  gave  me  body,  but  the  soul  immortal 
Came  at  Thy  breathing  through  no  earthly  portal. 
Ev'n  so,  O  Lord,  in  tents  of  righteousness, 
Among  the  living,  this  Thy  servant  bless. 


152  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

VII. 

Once  in  Thine  image  and  Thy  likeness  moulded 

Was  man,  the  lord  of  all,  in  Eden  folded ; 

Till  by  the  Tempter,  envious  of  his  blessing, 

Beguiled  he  ate,  Thy  first  command  transgressing. 
Wherefore  the  doom  went  forth  :  Return  to  dust. 
For  dust  thou  art.     And  yet,  O  Lord,  we  trust 
Thy  word,  that  rest  remaineth  for  the  just. 

VIII. 

I  mourn  and  weep,  at  thoughts  of  death  repining, 

When  in  the  grave  all  cold  I  view  reclining 

That  form,  now  formless,  once  by  God  created 

In  His  own  image,  and  with  beauty  mated. 

Strange,  passing  strange,  this  fate  of  man  mysterious  ! 

Corruption's  prey,  and  yoked  to  death  imperious. 

God  wills  it  :  we  His  written  promise  keep, 

That  so  He  giveth  His  beloved  sleep. 

One  more  specimen  may  suffice.  It  is  a  Prayer 
before  the  Holy  Eucharist.  As  the  entire  hymn 
might  be  thought  too  prolix,  I  have  given  the  first 
half,  or  rather  more,  together  with  the  closing  lines  : — 

A  PRAYER. 

With  lips  unclean,  O  Lord, 

And  with  a  heart  defiled. 
With  tongue  profaned  and  conscience  stained 

I  come.  Thy  erring  child. 

O  Christ !  reject  me  not 

For  ways  or  works  of  shame  ; 
But  let  me  dare  in  trustful  prayer 

To  call  upon  Thy  name. 

Yea,  rather,  teach  Thou  me 

Both  what  to  do  and  say  ; 
For  deep  in  sin  as  Magdalene] 

My  soul  has  gone  astray. 


HYMNS.  153 

But  she  her  Saviour  souglit  ; 

And,  finding,  meekly  dared 
To  bathe  His  feet  with  ointment  sweet, 

The  spikenard  she  prepared. 

That  off'ring  of  the  heart 

Thou  didst  not  then  disdain  ; 
Then,  O  my  Lord,  to  me  accord 

Her  part  to  act  again  : 

In  faith  to  clasp,  to  hold. 

To  kiss,  with  banished  fears, 
To  balm  those  feel  with  unguents  sweet, 

The  spikenard  of  my  tears. 

Yea,  let  those  tears  for  me 

Become  a  healing  stream  : 
'Tis  I  that  crave  the  cleansing  wave, 

'Tis  Thou  that  canst  redeem. 

Not  hid  from  Thee  my  faults, 

My  failings  in  the  fight  ; 
The  scars  received,  the  steps  retrieved, 

Alike  are  in  Thy  sight. 

Thou  knowest  my  desire, 

My  Maker  and  my  God  ; 
The  tearful  sob,  the  heart's  low  throb, 

Are  heanl  in  Thine  abode. 

Then  look  on  mine  estate, 

And  bid  my  sufferings  cease  ; 
O  God  of  all,  to  Thee  I  call, 

From  sin  vouchsafe  release. 

That  so,  in  reverent  awe, 

I  may  myself  prep.ire 
With  heart  made  whole  and  contrite  soul 

These  hallowed  rites  to  share. 


154  ST,    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Thy  mysteries  divine 

Can  heavenly  life  impart, 
Yea,  godlike  make  all  those  who  take 

In  pure  and  honest  heart. 

**Who  eateth  of  My  flesh 

And  drinketh  of  My  blood, 
Abides  in  Me,  and  I  will  be 
In  him,"  the  word  hath  stood. 

My  thoughts  by  this  inspired 

On  fresher  pinions  soar ; 
Exult  to  gaze  with  rapt  amaze 

On  grace's  boundless  store. 

Like  straw  with  fire,  my  soul 

May  flame,  with  love  illumed  : 
The  love  that  burns,  to  dew  but  turns  ; 

The  bush  is  not  consumed. 

Therefore  with  thankful  heart 

And  spirit  I  adore. 
And  hymns  of  praise  to  Thee  will  raise, 

My  God,  for  evermore.^ 

Mention  has  been  already  made  of  the  eight  tones, 
or  modes,  used  in  the  sacred  music  of  the  Eastern 
Church.  From  these  is  derived  the  title  of  one  of 
the  Service-books,  the  "  Octoechos,"  which  contains 
the  musical  portions  of  the  Sunday  services.  Before 
taking  leave  of  St.  John  of  Damascus  as  the  great 

'  Migne's  edition,  vol.  iii.,  p.  853.  In  the  Euchologium 
it  is  attributed,  I  know  not  on  what  grounds,  to  Symeon  the 
younger.  The  verses  are  entitled  Anacreontics ;  and  Billius, 
in  his  Latin  version,  has  preserved  this  metre.  But  though 
some  of  the  lines  may,  by  a  little  ingenuity,  be  scanned  as 
Anacreontics,  it  seems  to  me  that  they  are  in  reality  trochaic 
dimeters,  scanned  by  accent,  not  quantity. 


HYMNS.  155 

hymn-writer  of  that  Church,  we  should  add  that  to 
him  is  ascribed  the  composition  of  this  book ;  or,  at 
least,  of  the  original  germ  or  nucleus  of  it.  Not 
merely  the  words,  but  the  music  as  well,  have  been 
attributed  to  him  ;  and  some  writers  have  even  gone 
so  for  as  to  say,  that  he  must  be  considered  the 
author  both  of  Eastern  Church  music,  and  of  the 
system  of  notation  used  for  it.^  This  is  no  doubt  an 
exaggeration  of  his  services  ;  but  the  very  existen(  c  of 
such  a  belief  testifies  to  the  high  repute  in  which  his 
merits  as  a  hymn-writer  were  held. 

'  '*  Biographic  Universelle  des  Musiciens,"  par  F.  J.  Fetis 
(1862),  torn,  iii.,  p.  432.  The  writer,  who  was  chapel-master 
to  the  KinjT  of  the  Belgians,  considers  Damascene  as  the  re- 
former, rather  than  the  originator,  of  Greek  Church  music. 
"II  n'est  pas  exact,"  he  adds,  "de  dire,  comme  Villoteau, 
qu'il  a  inventc  la  musique  ecclcsiastique  grecque,  ni  d'afTirmer, 
comme  Allacci,  et  comme  Zariino  ("De  Instit.  Harmon.," 
4"*  Parlie,  c.  viii.),  qu'il  fut  aussi  I'inventeur  de  la  notation 
de  cette  musique."  Manuscripts  of  the  "Octoechos,"  some 
of  them  with  ancient  musical  notation,  are  preserved  in  the 
Imperial  Libraries  of  Paris  and  Vienna.  A  list  of  some  of 
them  is  given  in  Fabricius,  and  in  Ilaenel's  "  Catalogi 
Librorum  "  (1830). 


156  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


CHAPTER     XI. 

COMMENTARIES    ON    HOLY    SCRIPTURE. 

From  the  importance  of  the  subject  of  this  chapter, 
it  might  seem  to  have  deserved  an  earlier  considera- 
tion. The  space  taken  up  by  the  works  included 
under  it — amounting  together  to  nearly  one-half  of 
all  published  by  Lequien^ — is  so  great,  that  we  may 
be  thought  to  have  postponed  too  long  our  notice  of 
Damascene  as  a  commentator  on  the  Bible.  The 
reason  is  simply  that  there  is  but  little  of  his  own  in 
these  expositions.  In  the  first  of  the  works  in  ques- 
tion, the  "Loci  Selecti,"  he  only  professes  to  be 
giving  extracts  from  the  commentary  of  St.  Chry- 
sostom.  In  the  other  two,  the  ''  Sacra  Parallela," 
he  does  no  more  than  group  together  passages  of 
Scripture  on  consecutive  topics,  and  add  short 
illustrations  of  them  from  other  writers.  The  nature 
of  these  works  will  be  explained  more  fully  presently  : 
what  has  been  said  may  account  for  the  precedence 
given   to   other  compositions  of  Damascene,  at  first 

'  Migne's  ed.,  vol.  ii.,  pp.  439-1588,  and  vol.  iii.,  pp. 
9-544.  An  abridgement  only  of  the  last  of  the  three  works, 
the  •*  Parallela  Rupefucaldina,"  is  printed  by  Lequien,  because 
he  considers  it  to  be  substantially  the  same  work  as  the  pre- 
ceding one.  It  bears  its  name  of  "Rupefucaldina"  from 
the  manuscript  containing  it  having  been  given  to  the  Jesuits' 
College  at  Clermont  by  Cardinal  Rochefoucauld. 


COMMENTARIES    ON    HOLY    SCRIPTL'RR.  If/ 

.-ight  occupying  a  much  less  i)rominent  place  in  his 
extant  \\Titings. 

Before  examining  these  commentaries  in  detail,  it 
may  be  well  to  call  attention  to  the  mere  fact  of  their 
existence,  and  their  extent.  The  eighth  century  has 
sometimes  been  reckoned  a  part  of  the  dark  ages  ; 
and  very  extraordinary  assertions  have  been  made, 
and  are  still  made,  about  the  ignorance  of  Holy 
Scripture  then  prevailing.  It  becomes  instructive, 
therefore,  to  observe  how,  nearly  at  the  same  time, 
John  of  Damascus  in  the  Eastern  Church,  and  our 
own  Bede  in  the  Western,  were  labouring  at  the  task 
of  Biblical  exposition.  At  the  end  of  his  "Church 
Histor)',"  Bede  sets  down  a  list  of  his  works,  and  the 
great  majority  of  these  are  commentaries  on  the 
several  books  of  Holy  Scripture.  He  was  occupied 
in  this  task,  as  is  well  known,  up  to  the  very  close  of 
his  life.  The  touching  letter  of  his  disciple  Cuthbert 
shows  him  to  us,  at  Whitsuntide  in  734,  dictating  the 
last  verse  of  his  translation  of  St.  John's  Gospel, 
when  his  own  departure  was  nigh  at  hand.  And  in 
such  studies  the  best  part  of  his  life  had  been  spent. 
"  From  the  time  that  I  was  ordained  priest,"  he 
writes,  "  till  now,  when  I  am  fifty-eight  years  old,  I 
have  occupied  myself  with  writing  commentaries 
upon  the  sacred  Scriptures,  to  suit  my  own  needs 
and  those  of  my  brethren  ;  gathered  from  the  works 
of  the  venerable  fathers,  and  either  briefly  given, 
or  as  a  paraphrastical  interpretation  of  the  same."' 
It  has  been  remarked  that  ''  of  the  one  hundred 
and    thirty-nine  works  from  his  pen,  printed   in  the 

'   "Historia  Ecclesiastica  "  (ed.  Moberly),  Introd.,  p.  xiv. 


158  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Cologne  edition  of  his  writings,  sixty-four  consist 
entirely  of  biblical  commentary,  embracing  illustra- 
tions of  almost  every  portion  of  the  inspired  volume.  "^ 

Such  was  what  one  single  scholar  was  doing  in  our 
own  land  in  the  early  part  of  the  eighth  century.  We 
have  now  to  see  how  far  St.  John  of  Damascus  was  a 
fellow-labourer  in  the  same  field. 

The  first  of  the  three  works  referred  to  at  the 
beginning  of  this  chapter,  and  which,  for  shortness, 
may  be  termed  "  Loci  Selecti,"  consists  of  a 
selection  of  passages,  chiefly  from  the  Homilies  of 
Chrysostom,  appended  as  a  running  commentary  to 
the  text  of  St.  Paul's  Epistles.  According  to  the 
exact  title  given  by  the  author  himself,  "  Selections 
taken  from  the  Catholic  interpretation  of  John  Chry- 
sostom," it  would  seem  as  if  he  had  begun  by  drawing 
his  expositions  entirely  from  the  writings  of  that 
father.  And,  in  fact,  on  the  Epistles  to  the  Romans 
and  Corinthians,  the  commentary  is  in  the  main  from 
his  homilies.  But  on  others — especially  chose  to  the 
Ephesians,  Philippians,  Colossians  and  Thessalonians 
— it  is  not  from  Chrysostom  but  from  Theodoret  and 
Cyril  of  Alexandria,  that  the  substance  of  the  annota- 
tions is  derived.-      From  the  great  brevity  of  the 

'  L.  A.  Buckingham:  ''The  Bible  in  the  Middle  Ages" 
(1853),  p.  29.  A  list  of  Beda's  commentaries  is  given  by  Pro- 
fessor Stubbs  in  his  article  under  that  name  in  the  "Dictionary 
of  Christian  Biography. " 

2  This  is  pointed  out  by  Lequien,  who  also  observes  that 
there  are  passages  in  the  notes  which  appear  to  be  written,  if 
not  by  Damascene  himself,  at  any  rate  by  some  one  who  lived 
after  the  rise  of  Nestorianism  ;  terms  peculiar  to  that  heresy 
being  used,  as  in  the  comment  on  Col.  ii.  9. 


COMMENTARIES    ON    HOLY    SCRIPTURE.  159 

comments  on  some  passages,  in  the  later  Epistles 
more  particularly,  it  would  almost  seem  as  if,  in  the 
original  manuscript  of  Damascenus,  they  had  been 
written  in  the  margin  of  some  codex,  opposite  the 
text ;  and  had  been  afterwards  arranged,  by  some 
later  transcriber,  in  the  order  which  we  now  possess. 
In  its  present  form,  it  exhibits  the  entire  text  of  St. 
Paul's  Epistles,  broken  up  into  groups,  sometimes 
of  a  few  words  only,  sometimes  of  several  verses 
together,  according  to  the  frequency  of  the  com- 
ments following.  These  latter  are  printed  after  the 
detached  jjortion  of  the  text  in  each  case. 

As  the  commentary  is  professedly  not  that  of 
Damascenus  himself,  and  his  chief  or  only  task  has 
been  that  of  selecting  from  the  writings  of  others,  it 
would  serve  no  purpose  to  give  any  extracts  from  it 
here.  The  work  done,  in  this  instance,  was  but  the 
humbler  work  of  a  compiler.  But  attention  has  been 
called  to  it,  from  the  very  fact  of  its  being  work 
spent  on  such  a  subject  and  at  such  a  time. 

The  next  two  treatises,  "  Sacra  Parallela  "  (for  we 
may  properly  class  both  under  the  title  of  the  first), 
show  a  little  more  originality  of  design,  but  are  still 
in  the  main  only  compilations.  Like  many  other 
compilations,  meant  rather  to  be  practically  useful 
than  to  reflect  credit  on  the  author,  these  before  us 
appear  to  have  been  so  altered  and  added  to,  that  it 
is  difficult  to  discern  the  lines  of  the  original  work- 
manship. The  general  plan  is  that  of  a  concordance, 
of  subjects,  not  of  words,  arranged  in  ali^habctical 
order.  That  is  to  say,  the  most  striking  passages  in 
Holy  Writ   which  refer  to  any  particular  topic — as, 


l6o  ST.    JOHN   OF    DAMASCUS. 

for  instance,  the  eternity  of  God,  wisdom,  charity, 
and  what  not — are  grouped  together,  and  followed, 
generally,  though  not  always,  by  illustrative  passages 
from  other  authors.  There  is  a  carefully-prepared 
index  in  the  Greek,  in  which  the  subjects  treated  of 
may  be  found  under  the  initial  letter  of  the  word 
denoting  them  ;  and  at  the  end  of  each  alphabetical 
group  comes  a  series  of  parapovipce,  or  cross-refer- 
ences, to  facilitate  the  search.  Thus,  to  take  an 
example  from  the  English  names,  if  one  wishes  to 
find  what  is  said  in  Holy  Scripture  about  aj-rogancy, 
he  is  directed  to  turn  to  the  word  pride ;  for  7ne7z- 
pteasers,  he  will  have  to  turn  \.o  flatterers,  and  the 
like. 

There  is,  of  course,  nothing  very  original  in  all 
this,  and  nothing  that  may  be  thought  of  much 
interest  or  importance  to  us  now ;  still,  it  is  not 
undeserving  of  mention  in  its  place,  as  showing  the 
laborious  and  systematic  way  in  which  the  sacred 
Scriptures  were  studied.  The  original  idea  of 
Damascenus,  as  it  would  appear  from  his  preface, 
was  not  that  of  an  alphabetical  concordance  of  sub- 
jects, but  of  an  arrangement  in  three  books ;  of  which 
the  first  was  to  treat  of  God  and  the  Holy  Trinity, 
the  second  of  human  affairs,  and  the  third  of  virtues 
and  vices.  Moreover,  the  passages  to  be  selected  as 
illustrative,  were  meant  by  him  to  be  taken  entirely 
from  the  fathers  of  the  Church.  Whether  this  original 
plan  was  modified  by  the  author  himself  in  later  years, 
or  whether  it  was  altered  by  others,  it  would  now  be 
very  difficult  to  decide.  At  any  rate,  in  the  form  in 
which  we  now  have  it,  the  alphabetical  arrangement 


COMMENTARIES    ON    HOLY    SCRIPTURK.  1 6^ 

has  entirely  effaced  the  traces  of  division  into  books  ; 
while  in  a  kind  of  postscri[)t  to  the  preface  (p.  1044), 
it  is  stated  that  extracts  from  Philo  and  Josephus 
will  be  found  among  the  illustrations.  Indeed,  in  the 
long  list  of  authors  quoted,  we  may  find  the  names  of 
most  of  the  classical  writers  of  Greece.  The  circum- 
stance of  the  author's  first  design  having  been  so 
greatly  changed,  may  be  taken  as  a  testimony  to  the 
practical  usefulness  of  the  work.  Its  fate  has  simply 
been  that  of  any  manual,  or  work  of  reference,  which 
has  passed  through  many  editions. 

For  the  sake  of  comi)letenLss,  a  few  extracts  are 
here  given  as  an  illustration  of  the  mode  of  treatment 
employed.  It  would  be  superfluous  to  pursue  the 
subject  to  any  length,  because,  as  the  passages  cited 
are  taken  from  other  authors,  they  do  not  affect  our 
estimate  of  Damascene,  otherwise  than  as  they  may 
make  us  think  more  or  less  highly  of  his  skill  and 
judgment  in  the  selection.  A  few  subjects  have  been 
taken,  almost  at  random,  and  a  portion  only  of  the 
I^arallel  passages  given. 

On  the  Saints  of  God. 
Ps.   xciv.,    12.^ — Blessed  is   the   man  7vJwm    Thou 
chastenest,  O  Lord,  and  teachest  him  in  Thy  law. 

'  The  passages  from  Scripture  are  taken  in  regular  onler  in 
the  "  Sacra  Parallela."  The  earliest  quoted  under  this  head  is 
Levit.  xxvi,  2,  which  I  have  passed  over,  owing  to  the  render- 
ing of  the  English  version  making  it  inappropriate  : —  Yc  shall 
raercncc  my  sanctuary  (instead  of  my  saints).  This  is  a 
difficully  that  often  arises.  Thus  in  Ts.  Ixviii.  35,  hcly  plac<s 
is  again  our  rendering  for  the  saints  of  the  Septuagint  and 
\'ulgate.  In  Jcrem.  xxxi.  12,  for  the  soul  of  the  saints  shall 
M 


1 62  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

St.  Matth.  v.,  II. — Blessed  are  ye  ivhen  men  shall 
revile  you  and  persecute  you,  qt^c. 

Heb.  xi.,  13. — These  all  died  in  faith,  not  having 
received  the  promises,  ^'C. 

(And  thirty-three  other  passages  from  Scripture). 

St.  Gregory  Nazianzen. — "  This,  I  say,  is  the  best 
of  bargains,  to  purchase  the  kingdom  of  heaven  for  a 
few  drops  of  blood,  and  in  return  for  temporal  advan- 
tages to  receive  an  eternity  of  glory." 

St.  Chrysostom. — "  The  wonder-workers  of  Christ 
are  not  men  who  run  on  a  slender  cord,  or  who 
throw  somersaults  over  naked  swords,  avoiding 
wounds  by  their  dexterity.  What  they  run  along 
with  unfaltering  step,  is  not  a  rope,  but  the  narrow 
and  precipitous  pathway  of  righteousness.  The  points 
of  tyrants'  swords  they  blunt  by  their  own  eagerness 
for  receiving  wounds.  They  count  it  not  a  mark  of 
skill  to  avoid  suffering,  but  study  how  to  conquer  in 
suffering." 

On  a  Good  King. 

Numb,  xxiv.,  7. — His  ki^igdotn  shall  he  exalted. 

Prov.  xiv.,  28. — 171  the  7}iidtitude  of  people  is  the 
king's  honour. 

(And  twenty-five  other  passages. 

St.  Gregory  Nazianzen. — "Kings,  reverence  your 
purple.  For  the  Word  of  God  will  give  laws  even  to 
the  law-givers.     Recognise  what  has  been  entrusted 

he  a  fj-intftil  vine,  our  version  has  their  soid  shall  be  as 
a  watered  garden.  The  whole  string  of  texts  could  not  be 
quoted,  owing  to  this  circumstance,  without  frequent  explana- 
tions. 


COMMENTARIES    ON    HOLY   SCRIPTURF.  1 63 

to  you,  and  what  is  the  great  mystery  you  betoken. 
The  whole  world  is  put  into  your  hands,  ruled  over 
by  a  little  diadem  and  a  few  rags.  What  is  above,  is 
God's  alone ;  what  is  beneath,  is  yours  also.  Become 
gods,  then,  if  I  may  utter  a  bold  expression,  to  those 
beneath  you.  The  kings  heart  is  in  the  hand  of  the 
Lord :  so  it  is  wTitten,  and  so  we  believe.  Even  there 
let  your  sovereignty  lie ;  not  in  gold,  or  in  armed 
hosts.  And  ye  courtiers  also,  who  are  about  the 
palace  and  the  throne,  be  not  over-elated  with  your 
powers,  nor  think  of  mortal  things  as  if  they  were 
immortal." 

On  Old  Men,  and  the  Honour  Due  to  Them. 

Levit.  xix.,  32. — Thou  shalt  rise  up  before  the  hoary 
head^  and  honour  the  face  of  the  old  man} 

Prov.  XX.,  29.  —  TJic  beauty  of  old  men  is  the  gray 
head. 

Eccles.  XXV.,  6. — Jl/ueh  ex/erienee  is  the  croiuti  of 
old  vien,  and  the  fear  of  God  is  their  glory. 
(And  ten  other  passages.) 

St.  Basil. — "  Maturity  of  judgment  has  more  to  do 
than  grayness  of  hair  in  forming  an  old  man." 

Philo. — "A  man  is  seen  to  be  truly  old,  not  by  his 
length  of  years,  but  by  a  praiseworthy  and  perfect 
life.  If  any  have  spent  a  long  period  in  this  bodily 
life,  without  goodness,  they  should  rather  be  called 
aged  children,  never  having  been  trained  in  learning 
fit  for  the  hoary  head.     Old  age  is  a  haven  with  no 

'  It  may  be  remembered  that  this  was  tlie   verse   .Samuel 
Rogers  used  to  admire  so  much,  for  the  beauty  of  its  rhythm. 
M    2 


164  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

tossing  waves.     As  the  body  grows  weak,  the  passions 
furl  their  sails." 

On  Keeping  Watch  Over  the  Tonguk. 
Job  xxvii.,  4. — My  lips  shall  not  speak  wickedness^ 
nor  my  tongue  utter  deceit. 

St.  James  iii.,  2. — If  any  man  offend  7iot  in  word, 
the  same  is  a  perfect  man,  and  able  also  to  bridle  the 
7vhole  body. 

(And  twenty  other  passages.) 

St.  Gregory  Nazianzen. — "Ye  know  not  what  a 
gift  from  God-  is  silence.  Yet  speak,  if  thou  hast 
aught  better  than  silence.  But  be  content  to  hold 
thy  peace,  where  that  is  better  than  words." 

Nilus. — "  Refrain,  I  beseech  thee,  thy  unbridled 
tongue.  For  a  slip  of  the  tongue  is  more  serious 
than  a  slip  of  the  foot." 

On  the  Church,  and  House  of  God. 
Ps.  xxvi.,  8. — Lord,  I  have  loved  the  habitation  of 
Thy    house,    and    the    place    where    Thine    honour 
dwelleth. 

Baruch  iii.,  24.  —  Ho^o  great  is  the  house  of 
God  !  and  ho70  large  is  the  place  of  His  possession  I 
Great,  and  hath  none  end ;  high,  and  immeasur- 
able. 

(And  iwenty-five  other  passages.) 

St.  Chrysostom.— "  Like  harbours  at  sea,  God 
established  His  churches  in  cities  ;  that  we  might 
flee  to  them  from  the  tossing  of  life's  commotions, 
and  find  still  water.  If  we  put  in  there  for  refuge,  we 
need  fear  no  surging  of  waves,  no  attack  of  pirates, 


COMMENTARIES    ON    HOLY    SCRIPTURI:.  1 65 

no  violence  of  winds,  no  monsters  of  the  deep.  For 
the  harbour  is  one  safe  sheltered  from  all  these.  The 
Church  is  the  haven  of  souls." 

It  would  take  a  far  abler  translation  than  mine  to 
do  justice  to  the  thoughts  of  a  Nazianzen  or  a  Chry- 
sostom  ;  but  even  from  such  specimens  as  these  the 
reader  may  perhaps  conclude,  that  the  Bible  com- 
mentary prei)ared  by  John  of  Damascus  was  of  a  kind 
he  would  at  times  be  glad  to  get  in  exchange  for 
more  modern  annotations. 


1 66  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


CHAPTER     XII. 

ON     NATURAL     SCIENCE. 

The  debt  which  Europe  owes  to  Arabia  for  the 
transmission  of  ancient  learning  and  science  has  been 
often  stated,  and  may  be  cheerfully  owned.  Under 
the  splendid  rule  of  the  Caliphs  of  Bagdad,  from  the 
middle  of  the  eighth  century,  the  arts  and  sciences 
flourished  on  the  banks  of  the  Tigris,  in  a  way  that 
none  could  have  expected  from  the  previous  history 
of  Mahomet's  successors.  At  the  court  of  the  Abas- 
sides,  says  Hallam,!  "  learning,  which  the  first 
Moslem  had  despised  as  unwarlike,  or  rejected  as 
profane,  was  held  in  honour.  The  Khalif  Almamiin, 
especially,  was  distinguished  for  his  patronage  of 
letters ;  the  philosophical  writings  of  Greece  were 
eagerly  sought  and  translated ;  the  stars  were  num- 
bered, the  course  of  the  planets  was  measured ;  the 
Arabians  improved  upon  the  science  they  borrowed, 
and  returned  it  with  abundant  interest  to  Europe  in 
the  communication  of  numeral  figures  and  the 
intellectual  language  of  algebra."  The  merit  of 
transmitting  and,  as  time  went  on,  of  improving  upon 
the  sciences  they  transmitted,  cannot,  under  any  cir- 
cumstances, be  denied  them.  But  there  is  no  reason' 
to  allow  them,  as  is  sometimes  done,  the  higher  merit 

'   "Middle  Ages,"  c.  vi. 


ON    NATURAL    SCIENCE.  16.7 

of  originality  ;  of  being  discoverers  as  well  as  pre- 
servers. The  ever-present  reminder  of  our  debt  in 
the  Arabic  numerals,  and  the  occurrence  of  Arabic 
terms  in  chemistry  and  astronomy,  may  blind  us  to 
the  fact  that  the  Saracens  gave  us  little  but  what 
they  had  themselves  received.  Even  the  science  of 
algebra,  referred  to  by  Hallam,  whose  Arabic  name 
seems  to  bespeak  for  it  a  purely  Arabic  origin,  was 
not  invented  by  them  ;  they  simply  extended  and  im- 
proved the  system  of  Diophantus.^  It  is  the  more 
necessary  to  be  clear  on  this  point,  since  the  way  of 
speaking  found  in  some  authors  might  cause  it  to  be 
imagined  that  not  only  the  physical  science,  but  the 
])hilosophy,  of  modern  Europe  had  its  source  in  the 
Arabian  peninsula.  Warton,  for  instance,  in  com- 
menting on  the  works  read  by  Chaucer's  Doctour  of 
Phisicke  : — 

Well  knew  he  the  old  Esculapius, 
And  Dioscorides,  and  eke  Rufus, 
Old  Hippocrates,  Haly,  and  Galen, 
Serapion,  Rasis,  and  Avicen, 
Averrois,  Damascene,  Constantine, 
Bernard,  and  Gattisden,  and  Gilberlin, 

speaks  of  "  the  Aristotelian  or  Arabian  philosophy  " 
as  "continuing  to  be  communicated  from  Spain  and 

'  The  writer  whom  the  Arabians  regard  as  the  inventor  of 
their  system  of  Algebra,  Mahommed  Ben  Musa,  or  Moses, 
lived  about  the  middle  of  the  ninth  century,  some  five  hundred 
years  after  the  work  of  Diophantus  appeareil.  The  improve- 
ments they  made  in  the  science  do  not  appear  to  have  been 
great. — See  the  article  on  "Algebra"  in  the  Enryclop. 
Britannica  (1865),  i.  p.  512. 


1 68  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

Africa  to  the  rest  of  Europe  chiefly  by  means  of  the 
Jews  about  the  tenth  and  eleventh  centuries  ;  "  i  and 
of  astronomy  as  "  a  science  which  the  Arabians 
engrafted  upon  medicine."  Bailly  has  given  a  more 
just  estimate  of  their  claims  to  our  respect,  as  being 
the  safe-keepers  and  continuers  of  a  learning  that 
would  have  been  lost  but  for  them  ;  while  yet,  on  the 
other  hand,  their  existence  is  scarcely  marked  by  a 
single  memorable  discovery.2  In  giving  an  abstract 
of  what  one  of  the  authors  named  above  by  Chaucer, 
our  own  '  Damascene,'  has  left  on  scientific  subjects, 
it  will  be  our  aim  to  show  the  part  taken  by  Syrian 
Christians  in  the  transmission  of  ancient  lore.  If  he 
studied  in  his  youth  the  Diophantine  arithmetic, 
which  was  the  germ  of  our  modern  algebra ;  if  he 
epitomized  the  Organum  of  Aristotle,  and  made  him- 
self acquainted  with  the  astronomical  system  of 
Ptolemy, — and  that  before  the  seat  of  Mussulman 
empire  was  removed  to  Bagdad — we  may  see  in  him 
one  evident  link  at  least,  by  which  the  knowledge 
of  ancient  Greece  was  conveyed  to  the  new  con- 
querors. 

The    part  played    by  Syria  in  the  history  of  the 
world  has  not  been  conspicuous,  either  in  arms  or 

'  *'  Hist,  of  English  Poetry,"  sect.  xvii. 

*  "Les  Arabes  ne  sont  recommandables  que  pour  avoir  cte 
I'entrepot  des  sciences,  pour  avoir  conserve  le  feu  sacre,  qui  se 
seroit  eteint  sans  eux.  Mais  s'ils  nous  ont  transmis  les  sciences,  .f 
ils  nous  les  ont  fait  passer  a  peu  pres  telles  qu'ils  les  avoient 
re9ues  ;  a  peine  une  decouverte  memorable  marque-t-elle  leur 
existence."  "Hist,  de  I'Astronomie  Moderne  "  (1785),  t.  i., 
p.  221. 


— ^'■IIM-  11  UMt 


ON'    NATURAL    SCIENXE.  I  69 

secular  literature.  l>ut  it  has  not  been  on  that  account 
unimijortant.  It-was  in  Syria  that  (ircck  philosophy 
found  a  home,  after  it  had  been  driven  from 
Alexandria.  The  Aristotelian  philcsophy,  in  par- 
ticular, which  was  looked  on  with  suspicion  and 
dislike  by  the  earlier  fathers  of  the  Church,  and 
which  John  of  Damascus  himself  inveighs  against  in 
one  of  his  writings,  when  used  as  a  pillar  of  Nes- 
torianism,^  became  domiciled  there,  and  was  in  the 
end  employed  by  Damascenus  in  the  service  of  the 
orthodox  faith.  To  Syrian  Christians  belongs  the 
credit  of  having  taught  their  Arabian  con(|uerors  what 
the  latter  in  turn  taught  Western  Europe.  The 
versions  of  Aristotle  were  not  made  by  Arabic 
scholars  directly  from  the  Greek,  but  by  Syrian 
interpreters,  first  into  Syriac,  and  then  (often  from 
that  same  Syriac  version)  into  Arabic-  The  chief 
physicians,  and  in  that  sense  teachers  of  science,  at 
the  court  of  Bagdad,  appear  to  have  been  Nestorians 
of  Syria ;  and  as  the  first  Arabic  translation  of 
Aristotle  was  not  made  till  the  reign  of  Almamiin 
(813-833),  it  becomes  a  matter  of  some  interest  to 

'  "  Contra  J.ncobitas,"  Migne's  eil.,  lorn,  i.,  cul.  1441.  lie 
there  bitterly  speaks  of  Aristotle  as  a  "thirteenth  apostle"  in 
the  estimation  of  the  heretics. 

'  This  is  distinctly  stated  by  Kenan  in  his  essay  "De  Thilo- 
sophia  Peripatetica  apud  Syros,"  1 852,  p.  55  ;  and  to  the  same 
effect  Schmolders,  *'  Kssai  sur  Ics  ccoles  philosophiqucs  chcz  Ics 
Arabes,"  1842,  p.  95,  and  Ueberwcg,  *'IIist.  of  Philosophy  " 
(tr.  by  Norris  and  Porter),  1875,  i.,  p.  410.  "The  actpiainf- 
ance  of  the  Mohammed.nn  .\rabs,"  says  the  last-mentioned 
author,  "with  the  writinjjs  of  Aristotle  was  brought  about 
through  the  agency  of  .Syrian  Christians." 


lyo  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

observe  what  scientific  knowledge  was  possessed  by 
John  of  Damascus  nearly  a  century  J^efore. 

What  Damascenus  has  written  on  the  subject  is 
mainly  to  be  found  in  the  second  book  of  his  ''  De 
Fide  Orthodoxa."  After  a  few  general  remarks,  in 
the  fifth  chapter,  about  the  visible  creation,  he  pro- 
ceeds to  discuss  the  meaning  of  Heaven.  This  he 
defines  to  be  that  which  encompasses  all  things,  both 
visible  and  invisible.  Such  expressions,  found  in 
Scripture,  as  heaven  of  heavens  and  third  heaven  may 
be  explained,  without  laying  stress  on  the  Hebrew 
way  of  using  a  plural  for  a  singular,  as  denoting  (i) 
the  air,  (2)  the  firmament,  and  (3)  the  starless  region 
beyond.  It  is  to  the  second,  or  starry  firmament, 
that  the  term  heaven  most  properly  belongs ;  and 
various  opinions  as  to  its  nature,  shape,  and  motion 
are  briefly  referred  to.  Some  have  held,  with  regard 
to  the  first  of  these  points,  that  it  must  be  a  quintum 
corpus,  or  fifth  variety  of  matter,  seeing  that  it  has 
properties  distinct  from  those  of  any  of  the  four 
known.  This  refers,  of  course,  to  the  doctrine  of 
the  later  peripatetic  school,  deduced  from  Aristotle's 
treatise  ''De  Caelo."^  The  shape  of  it  is  thought  by 
some  to  be  spherical,  and  its  motion  circular,  while 
others  hold  it  to  be  of  a  hemispherical  form.     Here 

'  Lib.  i.,  c.  ii.  The  arguments  on  this  topic  are  summed  up 
by  Franciscus  Coventriensis,  at  p.  29  of  his  "  De  Mundo 
Pcripatetico,"  Antwerp,  1652.  The  work  is,  I  believe,  very 
little  known,  and  certainly  does  not  appear  to  possess  any 
scientific  merit.  But  the  frequent  allusions  contained  in  it  to 
English  persons  and  events  might  possibly  give  it  a  value  for 
enquirers  with  other  objects. 


ON    NATURAL    SCIENCE.  171 

again  the  author  puts  in  the  first  \>\i\cc  the  opinion  of 
Aristotle,^  and  after  it  the  one  held,  besides  others,  by 
Chrysostom.  The  arguments,  if  such  they  can  be  called, 
which  made  St.  Chrysostom  contend  for  the  hemi- 
spherical form  of  heaven,  were  nothing  but  analogies 
drawn  from  certain  passages  of  Scripture.  Thus,  in 
Hebrews  viii.  2,  Christ,  who  is  se/  on  the  right  hand 
of  the  throne  of  the  Majesty  in  the  heavens^  is  a 
minister  of  the  true  tabernacle,  7vhich  the  Lord 
pitched,  and  not  man.  Hence,  as  the  heaven  is 
compared  to  the  tabernacle  of  old,  it  must  resemble 
it  in  form ;  that  is,  it  must  be  rather  of  the  figure  of 
a  tent  or  dome  than  of  a  sphere.  Others  on  the 
same  side  would  quote  Isaiah  xl.  22,  where  it  is  said 
of  God  that  he  stretcheth  out  the  heavens  as  a  curtain, 
and  spreadeth  them  out  as  a  tent  to  dwell  in.  It 
can  hardly  be  denied  that  John  of  Damascus,  in  his 
treatment  of  this  subject,  shows  to  advantage 
beside  his  namesake  Chrj-sostom.  In  the  centre  of 
this  hollow  sphere,  the  centre  of  the  universe,  is  the 
earth.  For  earth,  as  being  the  heaviest  of  the 
elements,  must  needs  subside  to  the  lowest  region ; 
and  lowest,  in  this  case,  means  central,  since  any 
divergence  from  the  centre  of  a  sphere  would  be  an 
approach  to  the  circumference,  and  in  that  respect 

*  *'De  Cx'lo,'*  Lil>.  ii.,  c.  iv.  Aristotle  there  makes  it 
necessary  for  the  heaven  to  be  spherical,  for  reasons  like  those 
by  which  the  orbit  of  the  planets  was  held  to  be  necessarily 
circular,  because  the  circle  was  the  only  perfect  figure  ;  an 
opinion,  or  rather  prejudice,  which  it  cost  Kepler  a  hard  struggle 
to  divest  himself  of,  and  which  he  called  "a  great  thief  of  his 
time." 


172  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

would  be  a  rising.^  As  against  the  theory  of  Plato  in 
the  "  Timaeus,"  that  the  heavenly  bodies  are  a?imatedj 
or  have  a  soul  in-dwelling,  he  affirms  that  they  are 
devoid  of  soul  and  sense.  Such  passages  of  Scripture 
as  might  appear  to  imply  the  contrary,  such  as  the 
Psalmist's  Let  the  heavens  rejoice^  and  let  the  eai'th 
be  glad,  must  be  regarded  as  instances  of  a  kind  of 
personification,  often  found  in  figurative  language. 
So  in  another  psalm  we  may  read  :  The  sea  saw  it 
a?id  fled ;  Jordan  was  driven  back.  The  mountains 
skipped  like  7'ajns,  and  the  little  hills  like  lambs. 

Light,  which  is  identical  with  fire,  was  called  into 
being  by  the  Creator  on  the  first  day.  Darkness  is 
not  an  essential  property  of  matter,  but  an  accident, 
being  nothing  else  than  the  absence  of  light.  The 
moon  and  the  stars  were  ordained  to  give  light  by 
night  j  not  that  they  are  absent  from  the  sky  by  day, 
but  the  sun  by  its  superior  brilliancy  then  makes 
them  pale  away  and  disappear.  They  are  not  lights 
in  themselves,  but  light-holders.  Conspicuous  among 
these  luminaries  are  the  seven  planets,  called  planets, 
or  erratic  stars,  because  they  move  in  an  opposite 
direction  to  the  general  motion  of  the  heavens.  Their 
names  in  order  of  distance  from  the  earth  are,  the 


'  The  peripatetics  illustrated  this  by  supposing  the  case  of  a 
well,  or  shaft,  bored  dianietrically  through  the  earth.  If  a  stone 
was  dropped  down,  they  maintained  that  it  must  remain  in 
equilibrium  at  the  centre.  See  "Johannis  Velcurionis  Com- 
mentarii"  (Lugd.  1558),  p.  159.  Erasmus  also  includes  this 
problema  among  his  Colloquies,  but  more  prudently  leaves  it  as 
an  exercise  for  the  scholar,  to  settle  what  the  stone  under  such 
circumstances  would  do. 


wmm 


ON    NATURAL    SCIENCE.  1 73 

Moon,  Mercury,  Venus,  tlic  Sun,  Mars,  Jupiter, 
Saturn.  These  heavenly  bodies  were  set  by  God  in 
the  firmament  of  heaven,  to  be  /c?r  signs  atid  for 
seasons,  and  for  days  and  years.  It  is  to  the  sun, 
accordingly,  that  we  owe  the  alternations  of  the  four 
seasons.  It  was  in  the  first  of  these,  the  spring,  that 
the  world  was  made  ;  a  yearly  reminder  of  which  we 
have  in  the  reappearance  of  plants  and  flowers  in 
spring.  Its  duration  is  from  March  21st  ^  to  June 
24th.  The  summer  quarter  extends  from  June  24th 
to  September  25th,  the  autumn  from  this  latter  date 
to  December  25  th,  and  so  on.  Each  quarter  has  its 
special  effect  upon  the  temperament ;  spring  tending 
to  increase  the  sanguineous  humour,  summer  the 
choleric,  autumn  the  melancholy  or  atrabilious,  and 
winter  the  phlegmatic.^  It  may  have  been  owing  to 
passages  such  as  this,  or  the  fragment  Quid  est  homo^ 
to  be  afterwards  noticed,  that  John  of  Damascus  came 
to  be  regarded  as  a  proper  writer  for  a  "  Doctour 
of  Phisicke,"  like  Chaucer's,  to  study.  For  the  poet's 
physician 

"was  grounded  in  astronomic  : 
He  kept  liis  pacicnts  a  full  grot  dele 
In  houris  by  his  magike  naturcll." 

And  for  many  ages  afterwards  the  healing  art  was 


'  An  obvious  correction  of  the  (ireek  text  as  it  Iiere  appears 
in  Migne's  edition  is  to  alter  atrh  Mapn'ou  kuX  fxtxP'Q  k.t.X.,  to 
OTTO  Mapriuv  jcti,  i.e. ^  from  March  21  st. 

'  The  same  arrangement  of  inlUienccs  is  given  in  Velcurio, 
before  quoted,  p.  144. 


174  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

tinctured  with  astrology.  At  the  same  time,  while 
thus  noting  the  influence  of  the  seasons,  real  or 
im.aginary,  on  the  bodily  temperament,  Damascenus 
enters  a  strong  protest  against  attributing  to  the  stars 
any  influence  on  the  human  will  or  actions.  His 
words  on  this  subject  deserve  quoting.  "  The 
Gentiles  say  that  all  our  affairs  are  ordered  by  the 
rising  and  setting  and  conjunction  of  these  stars,  and 
of  the  sun  and  moon.  For  such  is  the  subject  that 
astrology  treats  of.  But  we  assert,  that  while  signs 
are  given  by  them  of  rain  and  fair  weather,  of  cold 
and  heat,  of  moisture  and  drought,  of  winds,  and  the 
like,  yet  of  our  own  actions  no  signs  at  all  are  given. 
For,  since  we  were  formed  by  our  Creator  with 
freedom  of  will,  we  are  thus  masters  of  our  own 
actions.  Now,  if  it  is  by  the  leading  of  the  stars  that 
we  do  all  that  we  do,  then  are  our  actions  not 
voluntary.  But  what  is  not  voluntary  is  neither  virtue 
nor  vice.  And  if  we  are  possessed  of  neither  virtue 
nor  vice,  we  are  deserving  of  neither  praise  nor 
punishment,  so  that  God  also  will  be  found  unjust,  in 
giving  blessings  to  one  and  afflictions  *to  another. 
Nay,  it  will  follow  that  God  provides  neither  guidance 
nor  forethought  for  his  creatures,  if  all  are  led  and 

carried    along  involuntarily Wherefore   we 

affirm  that  the  stars  are  not  the  essential  causes  of 
anything  that  comes  to  pass,  either  of  the  birth  of 
what  comes  into  being,  or  the  decay  of  that  which 
decays ;  but  are  rather  signs  of  showers  of  rain,  and 

changes  of  the  atmosphere Our  habits  are 

among  the  things  in  our  own  control,  for  they  are 
governed   by   reason,    and   follow  the  turn  we  give 


ON    NATURAL    SCIENCE. 


/D 


them."i  When  we  recollect  how  strong  a  tendency 
there  was  among  the  followers  of  Mahomet  to  astro- 
logical superstition,^  we  shall  appreciate  more  fully 
the  courage  and  wisdom  of  these  words  of  Damas- 
cenus. 

The  signs  of  the  zodiac  are  set  down  in  order,  with 
the  day  of  the  year  in  which  the  sun  enters  each  ; 
and  after  some  remarks,  in  a  moralising  rather  than 
in  a  scientific  vein,  on  the  borrowed  light  of  the 
moon,  the  author  proceeds  to  state  the  causes  of  an 
eclipse.  An  eclipse  of  the  sun  is  due  to  the  inter- 
vention of  the  moon  between  it  and  the  earth  ;  and 
though  the  sun  be  much  the  larger  body  of  the  two, 
yet  we  ought  not  to  wonder  that  its  disc  can  be 
hidden  from  us  by  the  moon,  when  we  reflect  how 
small  an  object — a  little  cloud,  a  hillock,  a  house- 
wall — can  conceal  it  from  our  sight.  An  eclipse  of 
the  moon  takes  place  only  when  it  is  fifteen  days  old, 
or  at  full,  and  is  due  to  the  shadow  of  the  earth 
falling  upon  it,  when  that  body  is  between  it  and  the 
sun. 

The  lengths  of  the  solar  and  lunar  years  are  next 
compared.  Mixed  up  with  this  matter  of  simple 
computation  is  a  remark — reminding  us  how  far 
removed  we  are  from  modern  mathematics  in  the 


'  Migne's  cd.  i.,  p.  893. 

'  "Ce  que  Ics  Arabes  adoptcrent  avec  plus  d'ardcur  cc  fut 
I'astrologie  judiciaire.  Ccttc  crrcur  est  naturaliscc  dans  I'Asic 
meridionale,  oii  un  climat  brulant  allumc  I'imnginalion,  oh  les 
dcsirs  excites  demandcnt  des  espciances,  ct  oil  rhomme  plus 
foible  qu'ailleurs,  croit  plus  aisemenl  cc  qu'il  souhaite." 
Bailly,  ubi.  sup.  p.  227 


376  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

treatise  now  before  us — that  we  must  conclude  that 
the  moon  was  created  at  the  full,  being  then  in  its 
perfect  and  befitting  state.  Hence  it  would  have  got 
a  start  of  eleven  days  over  the  sun,  beginning  in  the 
condition  of  fifteen  days  old,  whereas  the  sun  w^as 
created  on  the  fourth  day.  Four  from  fifteen  leave 
eleven ;  and  thus  it  arises  that  the  lunar  year  is 
eleven  days  shorter  than  the  solar.  It  would  not  be 
giving  a  just  representation  of  what  Damascenus  has 
written  on  these  subjects,  to  pass  over  unnoticed  such 
a  specimen  of  childish  reasoning  ;  but  it  is  only  fair 
to  observe,  on  the  other  hand,  that  the  thought  does 
not  appear  to  be  his  own,  but  taken  from  a  writer 
mentioned  by  Lequien,  Severianus  Gabalitanus. 

In  describing  the  ecliptic  circle,  he  assigns  three 
decani^  or  thirty  degrees,  to  each  sign  of  the  zodiac, 
making  360°  for  the  entire  circumference.  In  what 
follows,  on  the  houses  of  the  planets,  he  seems  rather 
to  verge  on  astrology;^  but  a  short  enumeration  is 
all  that  he  gives  on  this  head.  Aries  and  Scorpio 
are  the  house  of  Mars  ;  Taurus  and  Libra'  of  Venus, 
and  so  on. 

Next  in  order  he  discusses  briefly  the  nature  of  air 
and  wind.  Air  is  a  subtle  element,  heavier  than  fire, 
but  lighter  than  earth  or  water,  in  itself  colourless  and 
non-luminous,  but  serving  as  a  vehicle  to  three  of  our 

'  "  In  so  far  as  the  planets  were  concerned,  it  was  of  especial 
importance  [for  calculating  nativities]  to  note  through  what  sign 
of  the  zodiac  they  happened  to  be  passing,  since  each  planet  had 
a  peculiar  sign,  called  the  doiiius  or  house  of  the  planet,  during 
its  sojourn  in  which  it  possessed  superior  power."  Prof.  Ram- 
say's art.  on  **  Astrologia"  in  Smith's  "  Diet,  of  Antiquities." 


ON    NATURAL    SCinNCl:.  1/7 

senses,  sight,  hearing,  and  smell.  Wind  is  an  agita- 
tion, or  current  of  air ;  and  according  to  the  quarter 
from  which  it  sets,  we  give  it  in  each  case  a  special 
name.  The  names  of  the  winds,  twelve  in  all,  are 
then  set  down.  This  is  followed  by  an  account  of 
water,  and  ihe  chief  collections  of  water  on  the  globe. 
^y  ocean — the  ** refluent  ocean  stream"  of  Milton — 
is  meant  "a  kind  of  river  encircling  the  whole  earth, 
about  which  Holy  Scripture  seems  to  speak,  in  the 
words  a  river  went  out  of  Eden,  having  sweet  and 
drinkable  water.  This  supplies  water  to  the  various 
seas.  But  from  the  water  remaining  a  long  time  in 
them  without  change,  it  becomes  brackish  ;  the  more 
rarefied  part  being  constantly  drawn  off  by  the  sun 
and  by  waterspouts.  It  is  from  this  that  clouds  are 
formed  and  rain  ensues,  the  water  becoming  sweet  by 
percolation  through  the  air."  The  four  rivers  of 
Paradise  he  identifies  with  the  Ganges,  the  Nile,  the 
Tigris,  and  the  Euphrates.  The  different  seas,  or 
parts  of  seas,  then  known,  are  next  named  in  order, 
beginning  with  the  ^gaean.  Lastly,  the  measure- 
ments of  the  three  continents  are  given.  The  length  ^ 
of  Europe,  as  one  coasts  along  from  the  mouth  of 
the  Tanais  (Don)  to  the  Pillars  of  Hercules  (Gibraltar), 
is  609,709  stades  ;  that  of  Africa,  from  Tingis  (Tangier) 
to  the  Canobic  mouth  of  the  Nile,  is  209,252  stades  ; 
and  that  of  Asia,  from  Canobus  to  the  Don,  is  4,111 
stades.  It  is  plain  that  some  error  has  here  crept 
into  the  text,  possibly  by  a  misinterpretation  of  the 


'  Takincj  Uni^th   in   its  gongiMphical   sen-c  of  longitude,  or 
istance  cast  and  west. 


178  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

Greek  numerical  letters  ;i  for,  taking  the  usual 
measurement  of  202  yards  for  a  stade,  we  should 
thus  arrive  at  the  prodigious  result  of  nearly  70,000 
miles,  as  the  length  of  the  southern  coast-line  of 
Europe.  It  will  be  observed  that  the  shores  of  the 
Mediterranean,  and  of  the  land-locked  seas  connected 
with  it,  are  alone  comprised  in  this  survey. 

In  what  follows,  on  earth,  paradise,  and  the  tree  of 
knowledge,  to  the  twelfth  chapter,  which  treats  of 
man,  there  is  little  but  inferences  or  reflections  from 
Scripture;  and  hence  nothing  further  need  be  said 
on  these  subjects' here. 

Besides  the  above,  there  are  extant  a  few  short  frag- 
ments in  which  Damascenus  treats  of  matters  more  or 
less  connected  with  natural  history  ;  though  his  mode 
of  treatment  will  hardly  be  thought  scientific.  The 
first  two  of  these  are  on  dragons  and  ghouls.^  In 
these  he  appears  as  the  opponent  of  popular  super- 
stitions. Dragons,  he  tells  us,  were  vulgarly  supposed 
to  be  huge  snakes  capable  of  assuming  human  form, 
of  entering  houses  under  that  disguise,  and  doing 
harm  of  various  kinds  to  the  inmates.  Moreover, 
they  were  especially  a  mark  for  thunderbolts,  being 

'  I  do  not  understand  the  principle  on  which  the  first  of  these 
letters  {sfau,  or  the  digamma)  is  made  by  the  Latin  translator  to 
stand  for  600,000.  According  to  Herodianus,  De  Numeris,  a 
different  symbol  would  be  used.  Neither  do  the  three  amounts 
above  given  make  up  the  total  which  follows  of  1,309,072  stades 
for  all  the  coast  line  round  the  Mediterranean  and  up  to  the 
Sea  of  Azov.  If  we  read  69,709,  29,252,  and  4, in  stades 
respectively,  we  should  be  nearer  the  mark ;  though  these  would 
not  give  the  total,  reduced  on  the  same  principle,  of  139,072. 

'  Migne's  ed.,  vol.  i.,  p.  1599. 


ON   NATURAL  SCIENCE.  1 79 

sometimes  caught  up  into  the  air  and  destroyed  by 
lightning.  The  ghouls,  or  evil  fairies,  in  like  manner, 
called  Siryngct  or  Geludes,  were  believed  by  the 
ignorant  to  appear  under  the  form  of  women,  to  be 
able  to  pass  through  closed  doors,  and  to  delight  in 
strangling  infants,  or  even  devouring  their  inside.^ 

The  line  of  argument  taken  in  order  to  refute 
these  strange  notions  is  a  peculiar  one.  Damascenus 
does  not  deny  the  existence  of  dragons,  but  maintains 
that  they  are  nothing  but  serpents,  of  greater  size 
than  ordinary.  He  quotes  the  story  of  Dion  Cassius, 
about  the  huge  serpent  killed  by  Regulus  and  his 
army  when  crossing  the  Bagradas,  the  skin  of  which 
was  afterwards  sent  to  Rome,  and  when  measured 
proved  to  be  120  feet  long.^  There  are  also  other 
strange  kinds  of  serpents ;  some  with  eyes  glittering 
like  gold,^  others  with  horns,  with  beards,  and  the 
like.  As  to  their  being  a  special  mark  for  the  ven- 
geance of  the  thunderbolt,  the  idea  is  ridiculous. 
Thunder  is  caused  by  the  bursting  of  a  watery  cloud, 
swollen  with  moisture,  when  driven  along  by  the 
wind.  The  lightning  strikes  not  dragons  only,  but 
all  objects,  without  discrimination,  that  come  in  its 
way.     Whether  it  be  a  tree,  or  a  house,  or  a  man,  or 

'  From  this  I  took  the  n.ime  of  Ghouls,  otherwise  not  very 
appropriate,  to  denote  these  imaginary  beings.  They  seem  to 
answer  partly  to  the  Enipuscr  or  Lamia  of  the  Greeks. 

'  Pliny,  "Hist.  Nat."  viii.  12.,  tells  the  same  story,  adding 
that  the  skin  was  in  existence  down  to  the  time  of  the  Numan- 
tine  war. 

'  Perhaps  referring  to  the  fabulous  Basilisk  ;  on  which  sec 
Sir  Thomas  Browne's  "  Pseudodoxia  Epidcmica"  (1672), 
p.  131. 

N     2 


l8o  ST.   JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

any  other  animal,  in  every  case  the  blow  falls  alike. 
The  tone  of  this  answer  will  remind  us  of  that  given 
by  the  Spartan  survivor  of  Sphacteria,  who,  when  an 
Athenian  was  tauntingly  supposing  that  all  the  brave 
men  on  the  island  must  have  been  killed,  and  none 
but  the  sorry  remnant  left  to  surrender,  replied  that 
it  would  be  a  wise  arrow  that  could  select  the  brave 
and  not  the  cowardly  for  its  mark.  Damascenus 
proceeds  to  add  a  few  remarks  on  the  cause  why  the 
fiash  precedes  the  sound.  Both  originate  ssimultane- 
ously ;  but  whereas  the  one,  previously  latent,  is  then 
instantly  visible,  the  other  produces  no  effect  "  until 
it  has  come  down  from  its  height."  If  the  reason 
given  be  not  clear,  he  adds  a  natural  illustration. 
Let  a  man  stand  on  a  distant  eminence  and  give  a 
signal  by  striking  with  his  stick.  You  see  the  move- 
ment of  his  arm,  as  he  strikes  the  blow,  some  little 
space  before  the  sound  of  it  reaches  you.  If  men 
would  only  study  the  Bible,  they  would  not  be  misled 
by  these  childish  fancies.  Ignorance  is  a  very  mis- 
leading thing ;  and  we  suffer  the  greatest  loss  by  not 
obeying  our  Lord's  precept  to  search  the  Scriptures. 
As  it  is,  all  are  full  of  excuses  for  neglecting  the  duty. 
The  soldier  says  he  has  no  need  of  reading,  being  a 
-man  of  war ;  the  husbandman  pleads  the  necessity  of 
attending  to  his  farm  :  and  so  we  all  fall  short. 

The  simple  answer  to  the  monstrous  fables  about 
the  St ry 72 gee,  or  female  forms  that  can  pass  through 
closed  doors  on  their  malevolent  errands,  is  that 
Christ  alone  claimed  and  exercised  this  power,  when 
He  came  to  the  disciples  after  His  resurrection  ;  and 
to  aver  that  any  ghoul  or  fairy  can  do  the  same  thing 


ON    NATURAL   SCIENCE.  l8l 

would  be  blasphemously  to  assign  to  them  the  same 
power  as  to  Christ. 

The  reader  may  be  disposed  to  think  that  in  thus 
arguing,  with  reasons  of  whatever  soundness,  against 
the  popular  superstitions  of  his  country,  John  of 
Damascus  appears  in  a  character  somewhat  at  variance 
with  that  under  which  we  have  viewed  him  elsewhere, 
as  the  defender  of  image-worship.  But,  as  Neander 
points  out,  there  is  no  real  inconsistency.  *'  We  see 
no  good  reason,'  he  says,  "  why  a  defender  of  image- 
worship  might  not  at  the  same  time  set  himself  to 
oppose  that  species  of  superstition.  His  conduct,  in 
both  cases  alike,  proceeded  from  religious  motives. 
Image-worship  .  .  .  appears  to  him  a  practice  alto- 
gether correspondent  with  the  spirit  of  Christianity^ 
and  conformable  to  reason ;  but  these  stories  he 
regarded  as  alike  repugnant  to  Christian  truth  and 
reason.  He  ascribes  the  spread  of  the  latter  super- 
stition among  the  people  to  the  fact  that  they  were 
kept  in  such  total  ignorance  of  the  Scriptures.  He 
insists  that  laymen  of  all  classes,  even  soldiers  and 
peasants,  ought  to  read  the  sacred  word."  "This 
biblical  tendency,"  he  adds,  "might  seem  to  collide 
with  the  traditional  one  of  a  zealous  image-worshipper ; 
but  neither  are  these  contrarieties  of  such  a  nature 
that  they  might  not  exist  together  in  the  same  indi- 
vidual." 

One  other  fragment  may  be  noticed.^     It  apj^cars 

to  have  formed  part  of  a  letter,  and  in   its  present 

form  is  headed  Quid  est  homo  1     What  is  man  i     It 

occupies  but  a  single  column,  and  breaks  off  in  the 

'  Migne's  cd.,  vol.  ii.,  p.  243. 


l82  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

middle  of  a  sentence.  The  definition  given  of  man 
IS  that  he  is  "a  rational  animal,  liable  to  death,  and 
capable  of  intelligence  and  knowledge."  His  bodily 
nature  consists  of  four  elements  :  blood,  phlegm, 
yellow  bile,  and  black  bile.^  The  seats  of  these 
humours  are  then  described,  and  the  effects  observed 
from  the  preponderance  of  one  or  other  of  them. 
Traces  of  these  opinions,  as  we  are  aware,  sur- 
vive in  our  own  language.  When  we  speak  of  a 
man  as  sanguine,  choleric,  melancholy,  or  phleg- 
matic, we  are  of  course  embodying  the  old  ideas 
expressed  by  those  words;  just  as,  when  we 
describe  a  person  as  humorous,  or  humoursome,  or 
of  a  good  or  bad  temper  (that  is,  blending  or  com- 
bination of  these  hu^nours),  we  are  unconsciously 
employing  terms  of  ancient  medical  science.  An 
account  of  the  noblest  part  of  man's  body,  the  head, 
is  then  begun.  But  the  text  is  in  such  a  mutilated 
condition  that  it  is  not  easy  to  extract  much  meaning 

^  In  the  "  De  Fide  Orthodoxa,"  ii.  I2,  the  same  distribution 
is  made,  with  an  additional  comparison  of  them  to  the  four 
cosmical  elements.  The  black  bile  answers  to  earth,  as  being 
dry  and  cold  ;  the  phlegm  to  water,  which  is  cold  and  moist ; 
the  blood  to  air,  which  is  warm  and  moist ;  and  the  yellow 
bile  to  fire,  which  is  hot  and  dry.  The  four  seasons,  it  will  be 
remembered,  were  also  made  analogous  to  them,  as  also  the  four 
periods  of  human  life.  Besides  Chaucer's  ' '  Doctour  of  Phisike, " 
who 

*  *  Knew  the  cause  of  every  maladie, 
Were  it  of  cold,  or  bote,  or  moiste,  or  drie, 
And  wher  engendred,  and  of  what  humour," 

Burton  may  be  cited  as  illustrating  this  subject : — "Anatomy  of 
Melancholy"  (ed.  i86i),  p.  93. 


ON    NATURAL   SCIENCE,  X83 

from  it.  The  description  is  not,  apparently,  taken 
from  Aristotle's  Historia  Animalium ;  for  while  in 
that  work  the  skull  of  the  male  is  said  to  have  three 
sutures,  and  of  the  female  one,  cases  being  also 
known  in  which  no  suture  at  all  was  perceptible,  hero 
the  author  makes  five  to  be  the  regular  number,  and 
a  skull  with  one  suture  to  be  something  extraordinar}-. 
He  assigns  also  three  membranes  as  coverings  to  the 
brain,  instead  of  the  two,  the  dura  mater  and  pia 
mater,  usually  given.  The  brain  is  lastly,  in  his 
esteem,  the  "  abode  of  life  itself,  and  the  depth  pro- 
found of  thoughts." 

It  is  obvious,  from  this  short  analysis  of  what 
Damascenus  has  left  on  subjects  connected  with 
physical  science,  that  it  would  be  out  of  place  to 
expect  from  him  anything  of  the  nature  of  true 
scientific  enquiry.  In  this,  as  in  other  and  more 
important  sections  of  his  writings,  he  does  not  profess 
to  be  a  discoverer,  but  only  a  collector  and  preserver 
of  the  knowledge  gained  by  others.  He  performs 
individually,  as  has  been  remarked,  somewhat  of  the 
same  office  that  his  native  country  has  done  on  a 
wider  scale — he  has  been  a  transmitter.  And  hence 
it  is  of  the  less  importance  to  ascertain  the  authors 
from  whom  he  gathered  his  information.  There  are 
a  few  indications  which  seem  to  show  that  he  may 
have  met  with  Aristotle's  treatise  De  azlo.  He  may 
also  have  seen  some  portions  of  the  MegaU  Syntaxis 
of  Ptolemy,  better  known  afterwards  under  its  Arabic 
title  of  Almagest.  But  he  may  also  have  had  no 
more  original  authorities  than  Nemesius  and  Basil. 
The  Ihptaemcron  of  the  latter  he  undoubtedly  had 


184  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

seen.  Still,  the  claim  put  forth  on  his  behalf  does 
not  appear  affected  by  this.  There  is  still  reason  to 
maintain  that  it  was  through  him,  and  other  Syrian 
Christians  like  him.  that  the  chain  of  ancient  learning 
continued  unbroken.  What  Edessa  was,  as  a  link 
between  Alexandria  and  Bagdad,  such  was  John  of 
Damascus  between  the  Greek  philosophers  and  the 
Saracen  conquerors.^ 

'  As  a  slight  evidence,  in  passing,  of  the  tendency  to  assign 
to  the  Arabians  more  credit  than  is  their  due,  it  may  be  observed 
that  John  of  Damascus  himself  is  described,  by  an  able  editor 

of  the    Canterbury   Talcs,   as    "an  Arabian  physician 

probably  of  the  ninth  century."  See  the  Clarendon  Press 
edition  of  the  "  Prologue,"  &c.,  1877,  p.  135.  While  noting 
this,  as  significant  of  what  I  stated  above,  1  must  not  refrain 
from  adding  my  small  tribute  to  the  great  merit  of  Dr.  Morris's 
editorial  work. 


■^ 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS.  1 85 


CHAPTER    XII r. 

DOUBTFUL     WKMINGS. 
(I.)  Barla.ifii  auJ Joasaph  ;  (II.)  l\inci;}'ric  on  St.  Barbara. 

In  considering  the  works  of  doubtful  genuineness 
ascribed  to  St.  John  of  Damascus,  the  first  place 
must  be  given  to  the  Christian  romance,  if  such  we 
may  call  it,  of  "  Barlaam  and  Joasaph."  This  pre- 
cedence is  due,  not  merely  to  its  length,^  but  to  the 
wide  popularity  it  once  enjoyed.  A  glance  at  the 
catalogues  of  manuscripts  of  Damascenus,  whether  at 
Vienna  or  elsewhere,  will  show  how  frequently  it  was 
copied.  The  same  testimony  is  borne  by  early 
printed  editions.  The  presses  of  Antwerp,  Munich, 
and  Cologne  multijilied  it  in  abundance  to  the  end 
of  the  seventeenth  century.  In  our  own  country  an 
abridged  version  of  it  was  issued  as  a  chap-book  by 
the  stationers  on  London  Bridge.'-  An  ei)itome  of  it, 
in  a  Latin  dress,  appeared  in  the  "Speculum  His- 
toriale "   of  Vincent   of  Beauvais,   and    also   in    the 

'  It  occupies  pp.  857-1250  of  vol.  iii.  of  Mignc's  edition. 
I^-cjuien  did  not  include  it,  his  design  being  to  add  a  third 
volume  to  his  edition,  in  which  such  pieces  might  .ippear. 

'  Such  an  edition  appeared  in  171 1,  under  the  title  of  "Saint 
Josaphat :  the  llintory  of  the  Live  Wise  Philosophers,"  i2mo. 
The  introduction  is  signed  by  N.  Ilerick,  who  commends  it  as 
profitable  reading  for  his  countrymen. 


1 86  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Golden  Legend.  The  question  of  its  genuineness  ^ 
would  be  too  long  and  difficult  to  enter  upon  here. 
It  may  suffice  to  say  that,  on  the  one  hand,  the 
frequent  citations  from  Gregory  of  Nazianzus  and 
other  confessedly  favourite  authorities,  as  well  as  the 
occurrence  of  passages  verbally  coinciding  with  parts 
of  the  "  De  Orthodoxa  Fide,"  no  less  than  the  prolix 
discussions  on  the  personaHty  of  God  and  the  worship 
of  the  Holy  Images,  offer  a  strong  presumption  in 
favour  of  John  of  Damascus  as  the  author.  On  the 
other  hand,  the  statement  (p.  1028)  as  to  the  proces- 
sion of  the  Holy  G'hos.t  fro?n  the  Son  as  well  as  from 
the  Father,  would  be  at  variance  with  the  acknow- 
ledged teaching  of  a  writer  of  the  Eastern  Church. 
It  might  no  doubt  be  easily  maintained  that  the 
words  are  an  interpolation  ;  and  perhaps  more  con- 
vincing reasons,  to  some  minds,  would  be  drawn 
from  the  general  style  of  the  work.  From  the  title 
of  it  no  certain  conclusion  can  be  derived,  owing  to 
the  varying  forms  under  which  it  appears.  In  one 
manuscript^  it  is  given  as  "  A  profitable  history  of 
Barlaam  and  Josaphat,  from  the  interior  region  of 
-Ethiopia,   composed  by  our  holy  father  and   poet, 

*  When  Boissonade  published  the  Greek  text  for  the  first 
time  in  vol.  iv.  of  his  "  Anecdota  Groeca"  (Paris,  1832),  he 
tantalized  the  reader  by  saying  that  he  had  meant  to  discuss  this 
question  fully,  as  also  that  of  the  occurrence  of  Syriac  names  in 
a  story  of  which  the  scene  is  India  or  y^thiopia  ;  but  postponed 
his  plan  in  deference  to  an  expected  edition  by  Schmidt  and 
Kopitar.     I  cannot  learn  that  this  latter  has  ever  appeared. 

'^  Quoted  by  Leo  Allatius  in  his  "Prolegomena"  (Migne's 
ed.,  vol.  i.,  p.  155).  Leo  Allatius  concludes,  on  the  whole,  in 
favour  both  of  the  genuineness  and  authenticity  of  the  work. 


DOUBTFUL    WRITINGS.  187 

John  of  Damascus."  In  another  it  is  described  as 
drawn  up  in  the  monastery  of  St.  Saba  by  the  same 
compiler,  from  the  report  of  reverend  men  who  had 
brought  the  narrative  from  .Ethiopia.  But  in  others, 
again,  the  author  or  compiler  is  more  vaguely  termed 
"  John  the  monk,'  and  the  like.  Nor  is  the  question 
of  authenticity  less  difficult  to  decide.  The  scene  of 
the  events  related  is  not  easy  to  verify — "  the  interior 
region  of  the  /Ethiopians,  called  India."  In  the 
beginning  of  the  work  itself  the  region  is  thus  de- 
fined : — "  What  is  called  the  country  of  the  Indians, 
a  great  and  populous  country,  lies  at  a  distance  from 
Eg)'pt,  being  washed  towards  that  quarter  by  navig- 
able seas  and  the  main.  On  the  side  of  the  main- 
land it  approaches  the  confines  of  Persia." 

The  confusion  of  /Ethiopians  with  Indians  may 
perhaps  be  explained.  In  the  earliest  writers  we  find 
the  terms  used  more  or  less  promiscuously.  Even 
Alexander  the  Great,  we  are  told,  expected  to  dis- 
cover the  source  of  the  Nile  in  India.^  If  we  take 
the  expression  "approaching  the  confines  of  Persia  " 
to  mean  no  more  than  that  the  district  lay  towards 
the  east  coast  of  Africa,  we  may  perhaps  feel  our 
way  to  some  conjecture  as  to  the  locality.  For 
the  monk  Barlaam,  who  is  one  of  the  chief  person- 
ages in  the  story,  is  described  as  coming  from  a 
desert  place  in  the  land  of  Senaar.  This  is  assumed 
by    Boissonadc    to    be    the    Shinar  or   Babylonia  of 

'  Sec  the  article  "India"  in  Smith's  "Dictionary  of  Geo- 
graphy," and  also  Neander's  "  Church  Histury  "  (Uohn's  ed.), 
vol.  i.,  p.  113.  The  error  perpetuated  in  our  name  "West 
Indies"  will  occur  to  the  reader. 


1S5  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Genesis  x.  lo.  But  there  seems  no  reason  why  it 
should  not  be  the  modern  Senaar,  between  the  Blue 
River  and  the  true  stream  of  the  Nile.  As  the 
Memnones  were  placed  not  far  off,  an  additional 
reason  might  thus  be  given  for  the  blending  of  India 
and  ^^thiopia  as  the  scene  of  the  events.  If  the 
scene  were  thus  correctly  laid  on  the  confines  of 
Abyssinia,  a  somewhat  curious  analogy  would  be  pre- 
sented to  a  modern  story,  not  wholly  unlike  the  one 
now  before  us — Dr.  Johnson's  "  Rasselas,  or  the 
Prince  of  Abyssinia."  It  is  said  that  to  this  day  the 
Abyssinians  call  themselves  Itiopjawan,  or  JEih.\o- 
pians,  and  their  language  is  of  Semitic  origin. ^  This 
last  circumstance  may  help  to  explain  the  fact  that 
the  names  in  "  Barlaam  and  Joasaph  "  are  Hebrew  or 
Syriac.  Besides  those  of  the  two  principal  characters, 
we  have  that  of  King  Abenner,  the  father  of  Joasaph, 
Barachias,  named  as  his  successor,  Nachor  the  astro- 
trologer,  Theudas  the  magician,  and  the  like.  On 
the  whole,  observing  also  that  the  names  of  SS.  Bar- 
laam and  Joasaph,  or  Josaphat,  are  found  in  the 
Roman  martyrology,  as  well  as  in  the  Greek  Me?i(Ea, 
it  might  not  be  unreasonable  for  us  to  conclude  that 
some  such  account  of  the  spread  of  Christianity 
in  Abyssinia,  or  its  confines,  in  the  days  when  the 
Thebais  was  peopled  with  hermits,  had  reached  the 
ears  of  John  of  Damascus,  and  that  he  enlarged  it  by 
the  addition  of  the  long  discourses  between  the 
young  prince  and  the  monk.  There  may  be  thus  the 
same  basis  of  historical  truth  in  it  that  there  is  in  the 

^  See  the  article    "Ethiopia"    in    Smith's    "Dictionary   of 
Geography." 


DOUBTFUL    WRITINGS.  1 89 

"  Cyropaedia  "  of  Xenophon  or  the  '•  Utopia  "  of  Sir 
Thomas  More.  But  it  is  time  that  we  enabled  the 
reader  to  judge  of  the  narrative  for  himself 

The  king,  then,  of  this  shadowy  land  of  interior 
^Ethiopia  was  named  Abenner.  He  lived  at  a 
time  when  the  darkness  of  idolatry  had  been 
in  part  dispelled,  through  the  preaching  of  St. 
Thomas  and  his  successors,  and  when  Egypt,  in 
particular,  abounded  with  holy  recluses.  But,  though 
gifted  with  ever)'  bodily  endowment,  brave  and  vie 
torious  in  war,  Abenner  had  no  true  greatness  of 
spirit,  but  delighted  in  worldly  pleasures,  and  hated 
and  persecuted  the  religion  of  Christ.  Many  of  his 
subjects  were  compelled  to  abjure  the  faith ;  others 
were  tortured,  or  fled  to  the  surrounding  deserts. 
Among  those  who  had  so  withdrawn  to  the  society  of 
the  hermits  was  a  "chief  satrap,"  by  whom  the  king 
set  great  store.  Galled  by  such  a  defection,  Abenner 
had  a  close  search  made  after  him  ;  and  when  the 
satrap  was  at  length  captured  and  brought  to  his 
presence,  he  indignantly  demanded  of  him  how  he 
could  think  of  exchanging  his  former  honours  and 
dignity  for  the  mean  and  sordid  apparel  of  the  monk. 
"  My  liege,"  rei^lied  the  other,  "if  you  wish  to  debate 
the  matter  with  me,  bid  your  enemies  depart  out  of 
court,  and  then  I  will  answer  you  touching  all  things 
that  you  wish  to  enquire."  On  the  king  asking  what 
enemies  he  could  mean:  "Anger,"  said  he,  "and 
Lust ;  and  let  their  places  be  taken  by  two  better 
assessors.  Discretion  and  Justice."  This  appeal 
being  favourably  received,  he  proceeds  to  relate  the 
course  of  events  which  had  led  him  to  become  a 


190  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

Christian.  When  he  finished,  the  king  was  so  in- 
flamed with  anger  as  to  be  moved  to  commit  his 
body  to  the  flames.  But  fearing  to  incense  the 
friends  of  one  who  had  been  so  high  in  station,  he 
suppressed  his  wrath,  and,  telling  him  that  he  owed 
his  life  to  the  peaceful  counsellors  whom  he  had 
promised  to  call  into  court,  dismissed  the  once  high 
officer  from  his  presence. 

To  complete  the  worldly  prosperity  of  this  king 
one  thing  was  wanting,  for  which  he  had  long  pined 
in  vain.  He  was  childless,  and  had  no  heir  to  the 
throne.  At  last,  to  his  delight,  a  son  is  born,  whom 
he  names  Joasaph,  and  the  nation  is  bidden  to 
rejoice  and  offer  sacrifices  at  the  event.  When  the 
soothsayers  are  met  together  to  forecast  his  destiny, 
they  vie  with  one  another  in  presaging  riches  and 
power.  But  one  astrologer,  wiser  than  all  the  rest, 
foretold,  like  another  Micaiah,  that  the  infant  prince 
should  indeed  attain  to  great  honour,  but  not  in  his 
earthly  father's  kingdom.  He  would  embrace  the 
faith  of  Christ,  and  in  His  kingdom  would  he  be 
great.  Such  a  foreboding  was  gall  and  wormwood  to 
Abenner.  In  the  hope  of  falsifying  the  prediction, 
he  had  a  splendid  palace  raised  in  a  secluded  city  of 
his  dominions.  There  he  had  the  child  kept,  with 
the  strictest  injunctions  to  his  attendants  that  nothing 
should  meet  his  eyes,  as  he  grew  up,  likely  in  the 
remotest  degree  to  suggest  the  truths  of  the  religion 
he  abhorred.  The  royal  pages  were  to  be  all  young 
and  beautiful.  If  one  fell  ill,  he  was  to  be  removed 
immediately,  and  another,  in  all  the  bloom  of  health, 
substituted  in  his  place.     Every  sight  of  sickness,  or 


DOUBTFUL  WRITINGS.  191 

decrepitude,  or  old  age,  was  to  be  most  carefully  kept 
away  from  the  prince's  gaze.  But  as  time  went  on, 
and  Josaphat  was  becoming  learned  in  all  the  wisdom 
of  the  y^^'thiopians  and  Persians,  the  feeling  of 
seclusion  began  to  grow  upon  his  mind.  Calling  to 
him  the  most  favoured  and  trusted  of  his  attendants, 
he  urged  him  to  make  known  for  what  cause  he  was 
kept  so  confined.  The  man,  conscious  of  the  pene- 
trating intellect  of  his  young  master,  and  fearing  to 
offend  the  heir-api)arent,  made  known  to  him  the 
whole  history.  The  prince  said  no  more  for  the 
moment,  but  when  the  king  next  visited  him,  as  he 
often  did,  he  besought  him  to  let  him  have  freedom 
to  go  abroad.  This  request  gave  the  king  great  un- 
easiness, but  he  could  not  refuse  it ;  only  redoubling 
his  precautions  against  the  occurrence  of  anything  that 
might  divert  his  son's  thoughts  to  serious  concerns. 
One  day,  however,  as  the  prince  and  his  suite  were 
out  hunting,  he  unexpectedly  came  upon  two  miser- 
able objects,  whose  presence  had  not  been  observed. 
One  was  a  blind  man,  the  other  maimed.  Full  of 
sorrowful  concern  and  curiosity,  Joasaph  enquired 
into  the  causes  of  their  sad  state.  The  like  befell 
not  long  aftenvards,  when  an  infirm  old  man  came 
under  his  notice.  And  when  he  learnt  that  old  age 
and  disease  were  common  to  the  human  race,  and 
that  he  too  must  expect,  unless  his  days  were  cut 
short,  to  become  a  decrepit  old  man,  he  was  filled 
with  gloom,  and  longed  for  some  one  to  throw  light 
on  these  dark  problems.^ 

•  For   the   striking  resemblance    between   this    and   what  is 
related  in  the  Life  of  Buddha,  sec  the  Appendix. 


192  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Now  it  happened  that  in  the  solitudes  of  Senaar 
was  a  monk  named  Barlaam.  There  was  revealed  to 
him  in  a  dream  the  state  of  mind  in  which  the  young 
prince  was,  and  he  was  commissioned  to  repair  to  him. 
Accordingly,  laying  aside  his  monk's  dress  and 
assuming  the  garb  of  a  merchant,  he  "  went  on  board 
ship  1  and  came  to  the  kingdom  of  the  Indians." 
There,  watching  his  opportunity,  he  accosted  the 
same  attendant  in  whom  the  prince  had  before  con- 
fided, and  professed  to  have  a  precious  stone  of 
exceeding  value — the  "pearl  of  great  price"  of  the 
merchant  in  the  parable — which  he  would  give  to  the 
])rince  if  allowed  to  come  into  his  presence.  After 
some  parley  he  was  admitted  and  joyfully  received  by 
Joasaph,  who  divined  the  errand  on  which  he  was 
come.  The  monk,  to  confirm  him  in  this  mood, 
related  the  following  parable  : — There  was  once  a 
great  and  renowned  king,  who,  when  riding  abroad  in 
his  golden  chariot,  attended  by  a  gorgeous  retinue, 
came  upon  two  men  in  squalid  attire.  Their  wan 
faces  and  emaciated  frames  attracted  his  attention. 
When  he  learnt  that  it  was  in  the  austerities  of  a  life 
devoted  to  God  that  they  had  become  thus  wasted 
away,  he  leapt  down  from  his  chariot,  and  flinging 
himself  on  the  ground  at  their  feet,  did  obeisance  to 
them  and  then  saluted  them  most  lovingly.  The 
proud  courtiers,  offended  at  the  sight  of  the  royal 
diadem  thus  trailing  in  the  dust,  as  they  regarded  it, 

'  This,  it  will  be  noticed,  does  not  accord  with  the  sugges- 
tion made  above,  that  Senaar  might  be  the  country  still  so 
called;  if  at  least,  this  "kingdom  of  the  Indians"  is  to  be 
sought  in  the  interior  of  Africa. 


DOUBTFUL    WklTINLJS.  I  93 

but  not  daring  to  let  their  murmurs  be  openly  heard 
by  the  king,  applied  to  his  brother  and  urged  him  to 
expostulate  with  their  sovereign.  The  king's  brother 
did  so,  and  the  king  answered  him  ;  but  what  the 
meaning  of  that  answer  was  could  not  be  understood. 
But  when  evening  was  come  the  meaning  of  the 
answer  seemed  to  be  made  but  too  plain.  It  was  the 
custom  of  that  country,  when  any  man  was  sentenced 
to  death,  for  a  messenger  to  be  sent  to  blow  a  certain 
trumpet  before  his  door,  thence  called  the  trumpet  of 
death.  When  the  fatal  sound  was  heard,  the  inmates 
knew  what  was  meant,  and  the  victim  hastened  to 
make  his  last  preparation.  On  this  night,  therefore, 
the  king  sent  a  messenger  to  blow  the  trumpet  before 
the  door  of  his  brother.  He,  pale  and  terrified, 
thought  that  his  hour  was  come,  and  at  early  morn 
hastened,  with  wife  and  children  clad  in  mourning,  to 
sue  for  mercy  at  the  hands  of  the  king.  The  king 
set  him  free  from  his  alarm,  and  read  for  him  the 
meaning  of  this  riddle.  If  he,  foolish  suppliant,  thus 
dreaded  the  messenger  of  an  earthly  king,  one  but 
little  higher  in  rank  and  honour  than  himself,  how 
could  he  blame  his  brother  for  attending  with  awful 
reverence  to  any  message  that  came  to  him  from  the 
King  of  Kings,  even  though  brought  by  envoys  in 
such  humble  guise  as  those  at  whom  he  had  taken 
offence  ? 

Such  was  the  parable  by  which  P.arlaam  encouraged 
and  rewarded  the  condescension  of  the  young  i)rince 
towards  himself.  The  conversation  of  the  two,  and 
the  systematic  instruction  given  by  Barlaam,  are  then 
related, — it  must  be  admitted,  at  almost  interminable 
o 


194  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

length  ;  though  the  introduction  of  apologues  every 
now  and  then  may  have  made  it  almost  as  interesting 
to  readers  of  a  bygone  generation  as  "  Pilgrim's  Pro- 
gress "  has  been  since.  In  brief,  Joasaph  is  baptized 
and  led  to  regard  the  monastic  life  as  the  highest  of 
all  patterns.  Barlaam,  when  his  task  is  done,  returns 
to  his  distant  hermitage,  and  Joasaph  is  left  to  face 
the  king's  anger  as  best  he  may.  The  secret  cannot 
be  long  kept  from  him,  and  his  rage  and  fury  know 
no  bounds.  But  by  the  counsel  of  his  chief  minister 
Araches  he  resorts  to  stratagem.  He  raises  the  hue 
and  cry  far  and  wide  in  pursuit  of  the  monk  who  has 
caused  the  mischief,  and  in  due  time  gives  out  that 
the  chase  has  been  successful.  Nachor,  the  astro- 
loger, is  to  be  disguised  so  as  to  resemble  the  missing 
Barlaam ;  a  solemn  assembly  is  to  be  proclaimed  ; 
there  the  advocates  of  the  old  religion  shall  dispute 
with  the  supposed  Christian  monk ;  and  when  the 
latter  gradually  succumbs,  as  it  is  arranged  that  he 
shall,  the  prince  will  feel  that  his  new  teacher  is 
unable  to  give  a  good  reason  for  the  faith  that  is  in 
him.  The  plot  is  an  artful  one,  but  is  baffled  by  the 
penetration  of  Joasaph.  He  discerns  at  the  outset 
who  it  is  that  stands  before  him  under  the  semblance 
of  Barlaam.  Turning  to  the  assumed  monk,  he  thus 
addresses  him  :  ''  Barlaam,  thou  hast  not  forgotten  in 
what  splendour  and  luxury  thou  didst  find  me.  Be- 
lieving thy  words,  I  renounced  all  my  prospects  of 
worldly  glory,  and  braved  the  anger  of  my  father,  to 
worship  an  invisible  king,  and  earn  the  recompence 
that  He  has  promised.  Now  thou  art  on  thy  trial. 
It  thou  dost  make  good  the  truth  of  what  I  learnt 


^^Ip^^-^^aw^PB^CTTT^.: 


DOUBTFUL   WRITINGS.  I95 

from  thee,  and  withstand  the  gainsaycrs,  then  shall 
thou  have  yet  greater  honour  as  a  herald  of  the  truth, 
and  I  will  continue  in  thy  doctrine,  and  worship 
Clirist  to  my  latest  breath.  But  if  thou  failest,  I  will 
avenge  my  confusion  on  thee,  and  with  mine  own 
hands  will  tear  out  thy  heart  and  thy  false  tongue,  and 
give  them  for  the  dogs  to  feast  upon." 

Such  an  exordium  was  not  very  reassuring,  and  we 
cannot  wonder  that  the  courage  of  Nachor  failed 
him.  So,  as  it  was  part  of  the  arrangement  that  he 
should  begin  by  assailing  idolatry,  and  as  the  words 
of  Joasaph  gave  him  no  inducement  to  alter  his 
theme,  he  made  a  vigorous  apology  for  Christianity 
all  through,  exposing  the  vanities  alike  of  Egyptian 
and  Hellenic  superstition.  So  unexpected  a  termi- 
nation of  the  debate  mightily  incensed  the  king;  and 
Nachor  only  saved  his  life  by  being  allowed  to 
remain  with  the  prince  that  night,  who  made  a 
proselyte  of  him  and  sent  him  away  by  stealth  to 
join  the  Christian  anchorites. 

It  would  be  tedious  to  relate  in  detail  all  the  other 
devices  adopted,  and  the  trials  of  his  faith  which 
Joasaph  withstood.  Beautiful  maidens  were  sent  to 
wait  upon  him ;  and  one  of  these  tried  him  sorely  by 
jirofessing  herself  ready  to  become  a  Christian,  and 
asking  whether,  on  his  own  principles,  such  a  prize 
as  that  would  not  make  him  willing  to  yield  to  her 
solicitations.  This  was  the  stratagem  of  Theudas 
tlie  magician,  and  it  was  a  hard  one  to  overcome. 
\'ct  the  constancy  of  Joasaph  prevailed  even  over 
til  is.  One  final  effort  was  now  made.  Calling 
together  his  council,  and  asking  their  advice  in  the 


196  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

emergency,  he  was  recommended  by  Araches  to 
share  his  kingdom  with  his  son.  If  the  cares  of 
state  should  withdraw  the  prince's  thoughts  from 
religion,  their  end  would  be  gained.  If  not,  it  would 
be  a  final  token  that  Christianity  was  from  God,  and 
that  they  must  not  fight  against  it.  The  counsel  was 
followed,  and  the  kingdom  shared  with  Joasaph.  A 
separate  capital  was  assigned  him,  and  a  full  share  of 
royal  magnificence.  But  this  last  temptation  was 
foiled.  The  young  sovereign  acted  like  a  second 
Josiah.  He  cleared  his  city  from  its  idolatries ;  he 
protected  and  encouraged  the  Christians  within  his 
realm  ;  and  by  his  justice  and  clemency  made  settlers 
from  all  parts  to  flock  to  his  jurisdiction,  so  that  his 
government  prospered  beyond  example.  Yielding 
at  last  to  this  overwhelming  evidence,  the  old  king 
Abenner  comes  as  a  humble  disciple  to  his  son  ;  is 
by  him  instructed  in  the  faith,  and  dies  a  Christian. 
Then  Joasaph,  resigning  the  sovereignty  to  Bara- 
chias,  a  Christian  also,  lays  aside  for  ever  his  royal 
robes ;  and  starts  on  foot,  a  humble  pilgrim,  to  seek 
his  beloved  instructor,  Barlaam.  After  a  weary 
search  of  two  years,  he  finds  him  in  a  desert  cave, 
and  there  abides  with  him  till  his  death,  which  the 
Golden  Legend  places  about  the  year  380.  The 
bodies  of  the  two  are  afterwards  found  reposing  side 
by  side,  and  conveyed  by  Barachias  with  all  honour 
to  the  capital. 

Such,  in  a  very  meagre  and  curtailed  outline,  is 
the  once  famous  story  of  ''  Barlaam  and  Joasaph." 
Whether  it  be  judged  to  be  from  the  pen  of  Damas- 
cenus  or  not— and  there  is  much  in  the  Greek  that 


DOUBTFUL   WRITINGS.  I  97 

has  an  alien  look  about  it* — the  reader  may  not 
grudge  the  space  devoted  to  what  must  have  been 
read  with  eager  interest  (and,  we  need  not  scruple  to 
say,  with  jjrofit)  by  many  a  lonely  recluse. 

(2.) — If  in  the  foregoing  '' profitable  history"  there 
was  matter  for  doubt  as  to  the  authorship,  or  the 
actual  occurrence  of  the  events  related,  there  was  yet 
nothing  which  absolutely  exceeded  the  bounds  of 
I)robability.  The  second  piece  which  I  have  chosen 
as  a  specimen  of  the  writings  whose  genuineness  is 
doubtful — the  "  Panegyric  on  St.  IJarbara" — is  of  a 
very  different  description.  The  cnormcs  fabulce  that 
It  contains  would  tax  a  credulity  the  most  un- 
bounded. At  the  same  time,  though  1  should  be 
glad  to  believe  that  John  of  Damascus  had  no  hand 
in  it,  and  though  it  may  read  in  some  resjjects  like  a 
distorted  imitation  of  '*  Barlaam  and  Joasaph,"  it  did 
not  seem  right  to  leave  it  out  of  sight.  Le(iuien  had 
so  little  doubt  of  its  being  a  genuine  work  of  our 
author's,  that  in  the  short  jireface  with  which  he 
introduces  it,  he  says  that  "  absolutely  nothing  can 
be  discovered  in  the  treatise,  at  variance  with  tiie 
diction,  style,  and  manner  "  of  John  of  Damascus. 
And  a  later  writer,-  not  likely  to  be  uncritical,  is 
disposed  to  admit  that  the  panegyric  was  really 
delivered  by  him.     The   preliminary  section  is  rer- 

'  Such  expressions  as  i\v  ytyvuinKioi-  for  iyiyi'ionKi,  CicuiKt  for 
UiOKff  and  the  like,  strike  one  as  unfamiliar.  On  the  olhcr 
hand  some  passages,  such  as  the  prayer  of  Joasaph,  for  example, 
(p.  1141),  are  not  unworthy  of  the  John  sumamed  Chr}'sorroas. 

•  Langen  :    "Johannes  von  I>amasku>.,"  p.  23S. 


190  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

tainly  in  a  style  not  unworthy  of  Damascenus  ;  and 
when  the  narrative  of  the  saint's  life  begins,  it  is  in- 
troduced with  a  "  'tis  said,"  which  might  be  construed 
as  exempting  the  preacher  from  being  held  respon- 
sible for  the  historical  truth  of  the  events  he  goes  on 
to  relate.  The  question  whether  this  is  so  or  not, 
would  open  up  a  discussion  of  some  interest,  were 
this  the  proper  place  for  it,  on  a  certain  habit  oi 
mind,  by  no  means  unknown  even  at  the  present 
day.  I  mean  that  of  those  who  are  conscious  of  no 
scruple,  no  shock  to  their  sense  of  historical  accuracy, 
in  reading,  let  us  suppose,  some  of  the  lives  of  the 
saints  in  the  "  Legenda  aurea."  While  a  scholar  and 
theologian  like  Vives,  the  tutor  to  our  Princess  Mary 
Tudor,  could  declare  that  such  a  collection  deserved 
rather  to  be  called  "Legenda  plumbea"  than  '^ aurea" 
— a  Leaden,  rather  than  a  Golden,  Legend  — there  are 
many  who  read  and  repeat  and  draw  inferences  from 
the  prodigious  stories  there  met  with,  till  it  becomes 
difficult  to  ascertain  whether  they  ever  think  of  the 
literal  occurrence  or  non-occurrence  of  what  they 
appear  to  accept  as  facts.  In  the  minds  of  some 
such  persons  it  would  seem  as  if  the  moral  truth,  the 
spiritual  reality  conveyed,  had  entirely  obliterated,  or 
made,  at  any  rate,  to  vanish  into  very  dim  outline, 
the  distinction  between  what  was  and  what  was  not. 
And  thus  it  is  quite  possible  that  what  is  here 
recorded  of  St.  Barbara  may  to  some  minds  present 
no  difficulty  at  all ;  and  that,  not  because  they  either 
consciously  accept,  or  consciously  deny,  the  literal 
truth  of  the  occurrences  related,  but  because  the 
question  of  it  does  not  occur  to  them  at  all,  and 


■IhS^mmm^i^mS 


DOUBTFUL    WRITINGS.  I  99 

would  be  thought  irrelevant  if  it  did.  If  it  should  be 
judged,  on  maturely  considering  the  evidence,  that 
John  of  Damascus  really  delivered  the  encomium 
now  under  review,  and  composed  the  introduction  to 
it,  we  might  perhaps  avoid  the  necessity  of  taxing 
him  with  undue  credulity,  if  we  classed  him,  in  this 
respect  at  least,  with  those  whose  habit  of  mind  has 
been  described. 

Of  the  life  of  St.  Barbara  very  little  has  been  pre- 
served to  us.^  Her  commemoration  day  in  the  Latin 
Church  is  December  4th.  In  mediaeval  times  she 
was  regarded  as  the  protectress  of  captives.- 
According  to  the  account  embodied  in  this  pane- 
gyric, she  was  the  only  daughter  of  a  provincial 
governor,  named  Dioscorus,  in  the  reign  of  Maxi- 
mianus  II.  (a.d.  305-511).  That  emperor  was  noted 
for  his  fierce  persecution  of  the  Christians,  and 
Dioscorus  seems  to  have  copied  his  example.  To 
guard  the  ripening  charms  of  his  daughter,  he 
immured  her  in  a  lofty  tower.  Whether  she  was  a 
convert  to  the  true  faith  already,  or  by  some  means 
was  made  actjuainted  with  it  in  her  seclusion,  we  are 
not  clearly  informed.  At  any  rate,  she  only  became 
more  confirmed  in  it  during  her  solitude.  So  far 
there  is  a  resemblance  between  her  story  and  that  of 
Joasaph.  Presently  her  father  pays  her  a  visit,  and 
desires  her  to  choose  one  of  the  various  suitors 
eagerly  ambitious  of  her  hand.     She  rejects  all  their 

'  In  the  "Dictionary  of  Christian  Biography  "  her  name  docs 
not  occur. 

'  See  "  Brand's  Popular  Antiquities"  (ed.  by  .Sir' Henry  Ellis). 
1841,  vol.  i.,  p.  197. 


200  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

advances  with  scorn.  Thus  baffled,  Dioscorus  de- 
parts, after  leaving  orders  for  a  chamber  to  be  con- 
structed for  her,  having  two  windows.  She  directs 
the  workmen  to  make  three  in  it,  with  a  rehgious 
symbolism  that  can  easily  be  divined.  Her  father, 
on  his  return,  at  once  observes  the  change,  and 
demands  the  reason  of  it.  She  openly  avows  her 
motive,  and  seeks  to  convince  him  of  the  truth  of 
the  Christian  faith.  Then,  transported  with  fury,  he 
rushes  upon  her  with  drawn  sword  to  slay  her.  But 
lo  !  a  neighbouring  rock,  less  stony-hearted  than  this 
unnatural  sire,  opens  its  bosom  to  receive  her.  She 
passes  out,  through  the  way  thus  provided,  to  the 
other  side  of  the  mountain.  But  even  here  her 
relentless  father  pursues  her,  unmoved  by  the 
miracle  displayed.  Having  secured  his  victim,  he 
has  her  imprisoned  yet  more  strictly  than  before, 
and  applies  to  Marcianus,  the  presiding  governor  of 
his  province,  to  use  torture,  or  any  means  he  thinks 
fit,  to  quell  the  spirit  of  the  Christian  maiden.  The 
reader  of  martyrologies  can  now  anticipate  the 
course  of  the  story.  At  first  Marcianus,  struck  by 
her  beauty,  tries  to  ingratiate  himself  with  her.  When 
his  advances  are  rejected  with  contempt,  his  admira- 
tion turns  to  hate,  and  he  tries  threats  and  then 
tortures.  She  is  scourged,  and  her  lacerated  flesh 
rubbed  with  horse-hair  cloth,  till  she  is  one  mass  of 
blood.  But  when  brought  again  before  his  tribunal, 
on  the  following  day,  her  wounds  have  been  healed, 
and  not  a  scar  is  to  be  seen  !  The  governor  only 
hardens  his  heart  at  the  sight,  and  still  more  dreadful 
tortures  follow.      The  recital  of  them  all,  and  of  her 


DOUBTFUL    WklTINXS.  20I 

miraculous  preservation  through  tlieni,  is  not  neces- 
sary. Suffice  it  to  say  that,  at  last,  when  her  con- 
stancy had  been  fully  proved,  and  the  time  of  her 
deliverance  was  come,  her  father's  sword  was  per- 
mitted to  drink  her  life-blood,  and  she  fell  upon  the 
mountains  in  the  same  spot  as  St.  Juliana.  Dios- 
corus,  as  he  descended,  was  struck  by  lightning,  and 
consumed  so  utterly  by  the  fire  of  divine  vengeance, 
that  not  so  much  as  a  trace  of  his  ashes  was  to  be 
found.  One  account  adds  that  the  scene  of  the 
martyrdom  was  Euchailie,  in  Paphlagonia.  Accord- 
ing to  the  Latin  version  found  in  some  editions  of 
the  "Oolden  Legend,"  it  was  Nicomedia.  ^ 

As  the  object  in  setting  before  the  reader  an 
epitome  of  the  two  stories  of  *'  Barlaam  and 
Joasaph"  and  "  St.  Barbara,"  has  chiefly  been,  that 
no  material  portion  of  the  writings  ascribed  to  John 
of  Damascus  might  be  left  unnoticed,  it  is  not  re- 
(juisite  to  add  much  more  in  the  way  of  comments 
upon  them.  However  gratified  some  might  be  to 
find  convincing  evidence  that  a  narrative  so  por- 
tentous, in  certain  respects,  as  the  latter  of  the  two, 
was  not  justly  assigned  to  Damascenus,  such  a  desire 
must  not  be  allowed  to  warp  the  judgment.  The 
style  is  not  unlike  that  of  some  of  the  homilies  ad- 

'  "  Legemla  Aurea"  (cd.  Dr.  Th.  Graesse),  1846,  p.  898. 
Later  additions  are  there  subjoined,  illustrating  the  office  of  St. 
Darbara  as  a  deliverer  of  captives.  As  Hithynia  (in  which  pro- 
vince Nicomedia  was  situated),  and  raj)hl.'igonia  were  adjacent 
countries,  there  is  no  material  discrepancy  in  the  localities 
assigned. 


202  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

mitted  to  be  his"^;  and,  as  has  been  remarked,  his 
frequent  insertion  of  ''  'tis  said,"  or  "  so  runs  the 
story,"  while  it  does  not  reHeve  him  from  the  respon- 
sibility of  adopting  the  account  given,  frees  him,  at 
any  rate,  from  the  charge  of  originating  it.  And  to 
one  living,  as  he  did,  in  an  age  of  desolating  wars, 
when  the  sword  of  Mahomet's  successors  seemed  to 
promise  the  extirpation  of  Christianity  from  the  earth, 
the  mind  of  a  monk  at  St.  Saba's  convent  must  have 
been  ready  to  receive  such  stories  of  constancy  under 
persecution,  and  less  critical  than  we  can  now  afford 
to  be  in  discriminating  the  true  from  the  false. 

'  The  fondness,  before  noticed,  for  Homeric  or  poetical  forms 
is  equally  marked.  Some  of  the  terms  used  are  striking  and 
effective  in  their  metaphorical  application.  Such  are  yewjoyfu' 
for  "cultivating"  thoughts,  Z,u)ypa(puv  for  "depicting"  to  the 
imagination,  and  the  like. 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS.  203 


CHAPTER    XIV. 

CONCLUSIOxV. 

In  endeavouring  to  form  a  just  estimate  of  the  place 
to  be  assigned  to  St.  John  of  Damascus,  as  a  writer 
and  an  actor  in  the  history  of  the  Church,  our  chief 
difficulty  lies  in  the  confused  nature  of  the  evidence 
before  us.  The  vague  and  uncritical,  not  to  say 
legendary  character  of  the  only  professed  biography 
we  have  of  him,  has  already  been  noticed.  But,  what 
is  of  more  importance  than  this,  the  works  attributed 
to  him  need  to  be  thoroughly  examined  and  sifted. 
Many  pieces  bearing  his  name  still  remain  in  manu- 
script. The  Imperial  Librar)'  at  Vienna  is  said  to  be 
especially  rich  in  this  department.  Before  it  is 
possible  to  arrive  at  a  true  decision  upon  the  merits 
of  the  author,  these  should  be  examined,  and  com- 
pared with  the  works  already  in  print.  In  case  of 
the  latter  also,  much  remains  still  to  be  done.  The 
edition  of  Lequien  was  an  immense  improvement 
upon  all  previous  ones.  He  probably  realised  all  that 
had  beerr  expected  from  Aubert  in  1636.  But  even 
he  includes  many  treatises  admitted  by  himself  to  be 
doubtful,  and  some  that  he  considers  manifestly 
spurious  ;  while  on  the  other  hand  he  leaves  out 
several,  the  Barhiam  and  Joasaph  included,  which 
have  since  been  i)rinted  by  the  Abbe  Mignc.     Hence 


204  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

it  is  plain  that,  until  some  scholar  has  arisen,  with 
the  ability  and  patience  to  give  the  world  a  critical 
and  exhaustive  edition  of  the  works  of  this  Father, 
any  estimate  of  his  position  must  be  to  some  degree 
tentative.  If  this  allowance  be  made,  one  or  two 
reflections  seem  to  suggest  themselves  as  just  and 
natural. 

The  one  which  may  first  occur  to  the  reader,  if  he 
has  followed  the  review  of  the  writings  of  Damascenus 
given  above,  is  that  likely  to  arise  from  the  latest 
impression  on  his  mind — the  impression  produced 
by  what  have  been  called  the  doubtful  writings.  If 
disposed  to  agree  with  those  critics  who  think  the 
"Panegyric  on  St.  Barbara,"  for  example,  to  be  genuine, 
he  can  hardly  help  regarding  him,  with  Voss,^  as 
"  in  plerisque  credulus."  And  this  charge  of  credulity 
will,  I  fear,  under  any  circumstances,  have  to  be 
admitted.  The  degree  of  it  will  of  course  vary  con- 
siderably, according  to  the  verdict  finally  pronounced 
upon  this  or  that  particular  treatise  in  respect  of 
genuineness.  One  such  treatise,  for  example  (I  mean 
that  Concerning  those  who  have  died  in  the  faith, ^)  is 
rejected  by  writers  like  Suarez,  Bellarmine,  and 
Lequien  himself,  not  only  from  its  want  of  accordance 
in  doctrine  with  admitted  works  of  Damascenus,  but 
from  the  monstrous  fables  it  contains.  The  general 
subject  of  it  is  the  benefit  which  the  departed  may 
receive   from   the   prayers   of  the    living.      And,   as 


'   "  De  Hist.  Grcec."ii.,  c.  24. 

^  "  De  his  qui  in  fide  dormierunt,"  Migne's  ed.,  vol.  ii.,  pp. 
248-277. 


CONCLUSION.  205 

instances,  we  read  in  it  of  the  deliverance  from  Hades 
of  Falconilla  by  the  prayers  of  Thecla,  of  the  like 
deliverance  of  the  Emperor  Trajan  by  the  intercession 
of  Pope  Gregory,  and  of  the  oracular  skull  which 
Macarius  used  to  consult.  Now,  if  even  theologians 
who  accept-  the  doctrine  of  purgatory,  object  to  such 
a  treatise  as  this  on  account  of  its  "enormes  fabulae," 
and  on  that  ground,  at  least  in  part,  would  refuse  its 
claim  to  be  genuine,  it  must  obviously  make  a  great 
difference  in  our  opinion  of  Damascenus,  whether  we 
accept  works  like  this  as  his  real  production,  or  not. 
But  when  every'  abatement  is  made  that  can  fairly  be 
made  on  this  score,  I  think  enough  still  remains  to 
bear  out  the  charge  of  over-credulity,  which  is  one  of 
the  first  and  most  obvious  faults  to  be  found  with 
him.  Admitting  this,  some  considerations  arise  which 
may  help  in  a  certain  degree  to  modify  our  judgment. 
If  we  believe  that  miraculous  powers  did  once  exist 
in  the  Church  of  Christ,  and  were  gradually  with- 
drawn as  the  need  of  them  grew  less,  it  will  always  be 
a  question  requiring  great  caution  in  the  answer,  at 
what  period  this  withdrawal  became  final.  Unless 
we  are  i)repared  to  cut  the  knot  summarily  by  dis- 
carding all  historical  evidence  which  it  does  not  suit 
our  inclination  to  receive,  we  must  admit  that  when 
Justin  Martyr,  Irenxus,  Origen,  Tertullian,  and  many 
more,  distinctly  assert  the  fact  of  such  supernatural 
])Ower,  and  point  to  its  effects  in  healing  the  sick,  and 
the  like,  as  an  evidence  patent  to  all— they  were 
affirming  what  came  legitimately  within  their  own 
I)rovince  to  decide  upon,  and  knew  what  their  state- 


206  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

ments  meant.^  If  then  we  at  the  present  time  think 
that  we  see  reasons  for  limiting  the  continuance  of 
such  phenomena  to  the  middle  of  the  third  century, 
or  to  any  given  period  still  later,  it  will  be  the  result 
of  a  preponderance  of  evidence,  or  of  our  own  con- 
ceptions of  the  likely  and  probable.  Whatever  liberty 
we  thus  claim,  we  must  be  prepared  to  extend  to 
others  ;  and  hence  we  need  not  judge  too  severely  a 
monk  of  Palestine  in  the  seventh  or  eighth  century, 
if  he  should  seem  to  have  no  doubts  or  misgivings 
about  the  existence  of  miraculous  powers  in  the 
Church  in  his  own  day.  Moreover,  it  is  in  seasons 
of  great  and  exciting  changes  that  we  find  the  exercise 
of  such  powers  chiefly  recorded.  The  miracles  of 
the  Old  Testament,  as  all  are  aware,  cluster  round 
the  epochs  of  change  and  convulsion  in  Israel's 
history.  So  it  was  with  the  second  Exodus  and  with 
the  greater  Joshua.  And  the  days  in  which  the  lot 
of  John  of  Damascus  was  cast  were  undoubtedly 
days  of  convulsion,  of  a  moral  upheaving  such  as 
the  world  had  not  seen  since  the  foundation  of 
Christianity.  Before  the  advancing  surge  of  Maho- 
metanism,  what  ancient  fabric  could  remain  and  not 
be  overthro\vn?  Hence  a  need  of  sudden  and 
visible  interposition  would  be  felt,  which  we  in 
peaceful  times  cannot  realise.  Hence  the  minds 
of  men  would  be  predisposed   to   believe   it ;   and 


'  See  the  remarks  in  Neander,  a  writer  not  inclined  to  the 
side  of  superstition: — "History  of  the  Christian  Church" 
(Bohn's  ed.),  vol.  i.,  pp.  100-104. 


CONCLUSION.  207 

this  disposition  would  tend  to  make  possible  the  very 
results  at  which  we  marvel.' 

Akin  to  the  credulity  which,  after  all  allowance  is 
made,  we  can  hardly  avoid  imputing  to  John  of 
Damascus,  is  a  tendency  to  superstition,  or  what 
some  will  call  by  that  name.  In  the  effort  to  give  an 
impartial  summary  'of  his  merits,  one  in  which  his 
defects  are  noted  as  well  as  his  excellencies,  it  would 
be  plainly  unfair  to  omit  all  allusion  to  this  side  of 
his  character,  for  the  simple  reason  that  it  was  as  a 
champion  of  image-worship  that  much  of  his  rej)uta- 
tion  was  won.  In  this,  as  in  the  previous  instance, 
it  is  not  without  taking  some  trouble  to  enter  into  the 
real  circumstances  of  the  case,  that  we  can  possibly 
arrive  at  a  just  conclusion.  The  popular  expression, 
"  image-worship,"  involves  two  equivocal  terms.  The 
great  difference  of  meaning  with  which  the  word 
"worship"  may  be  used,  is  familiar  to  all,  and  has 
already  been  remarked  upon  in  the  chapter  on  the 
iconoclastic  controversy.  And  by  the  term  ''  images," 
in  like  manner,  we  are  not  to  understand  what  the 
word  would  commonly  suggest  to  the  mind  at  the 
I)resent  time,  but  the  iions,  or  sacred  j)ictures  of  the 
I^astern  Church.  Nor  is  this  a  mere  distinction 
without  a  difference.    The  use  of  the  one  was  allowed 


'  This  frame  of  mind  was  found  equally  among  the  followers 
of  Islam.  Though  Mahomet  himself  generally  evaded  the 
apiMial  to  miraculous  powers,  professing  that  the  Koran  was  it- 
self a  standing  miracle,  yet  his  adherents  were  not  so  scrupu- 
lous. According  to  Ockley,  one  Arabic  writer  states  that  "the 
miracles  recorded  of  Mohammed  almost  exceed  enumeration." 
"Hist,  of  the  Saracens,"  1847,  p.  66.  n. 


2o8  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

when  that  of  the  other  was  still  condemned.  "The 
ancients,"  says  a  writer  quoted  by  Bingham, i  "  did 
not  approve  of  massy  images,  or  statues  of  wood,  or 
metal,  or  stone,  but  only  pictures  or  paintings,  to  be 
used  in  churches."  "  And  this  shews,"  adds  Bingham, 
''  that  massy  images  or  statues  were  thought  to  look 
too  much  like  idols,"  even  so  late  as  the  second 
Council  of  Nicaea,  in  787,  which  reversed  the  decrees 
of  the  iconoclastic  emperors.  But  when  we  have  thus 
defined  our  terms,  and  so  reduced  the  danger  of  im- 
porting modern  ideas  and  prejudices  into  ancient  con- 
troversies, the  question  still  remains  whether  Damas- 
cenus,  by  throwing  the  weight  of  his  eloquence  and 
energetic  pleading  into  the  scale  against  the  imperial 
cause,  did  more  good  or  harm  to  the  Christian  faith. 
There  are  those,  as  we  know,  even  in  our  own  branch 
of  the  Church,  who  are  deeply  and  honestly  grateful 
to  him,  and  to  others  who  fought  on  the  same  side,  for 
preserving,  as  they  think,  truths  in  imminent  danger 
of  being  let  go.  To  them  it  seems  that  John  of 
Damascus  and  his  party,  even  if  they  did  not  see 
clearly  the  ultimate  issues  of  the  fight,  had  yet  a  con- 
sciousness that  in  struggling  against  the  abolition  of 
pictures  of  Christ  and  his  saints  in  their  churches, 
they  were  contending  for  the  truth  of  His  incarnation, 
and  for  the  whole  mystery  of  the  Godhead  manifest 
in  the  flesh.  To  give  up  these  "  laymen's  books," 
these  pictured  illustrations  of  Biblical  and  Christian 
history,  by  which  the  walls  of  the  Church  became  so 
many  stone  pages,  preaching  sermons  to  the  simple 

'   "Antiquities,"  bk.  viii.,  c.  viii.,  §  11. 


CONCLUSION.  209 

and  illiterate,  would  have  been  to  abandon  a  precious 
means   of    fostering   devotion    and    instructing    the 
iLjnorant.     More  than  that,  it  would  have  helped  to 
forward  tlie  spread  of  a  bare  theism  in  Christendom, 
to  deaden  the  belief  in  a  Saviour  who  took  our  like- 
ness upon  Him  and  so  glorified  human  nature.     It 
may   be  so.     But,  having  regard   to  the  undoubted 
repudiation  of  everything  a[)proaching  image-worship 
(even  in  the  most  qualified  sense  of  **  worship  ")  in 
the   early   Church,  and  bearing   in   mind   also   the 
development  of  the  practice  in  later  times,  and  the 
abuses  that  have  flowed  from  it,  I  for  one  cannot  but 
regret  that  the  eloquence  and  enthusiasm  of  Damas- 
cenus  were  enlisted  in  this  cause.     No  doubt  there 
was  much  to  provoke  such  a  course  of  action,  and  to 
make  it  natural  and  intelligible  to  us,  in  the  high- 
handed and  arbitrary  conduct  of  Leo  the  Isaurian. 
If  Leo  thought  it  well  to  let  it  be  known  to  the  world 
that  what  most  offended  Mahometans  in  Christianity 
was  not  of  the  essence  of  that  religion,  but  only  a  false 
growth  that  had  become  attached  to  it,  his  oi)ponents 
may  have  been  equally  sincere  in  believing  that  the 
prophet's  followers  were  not  to  be  won  over  by  such 
means.      We  may  see  these  two   lines  of  conduct 
actively  followed  in  our  own  day.     Some  would  con- 
ciliate opponents,  or  remove  the  causes  of  their  op- 
position, by  keeping  in  the  background  what  most 
offends  them  in  their  own  i)rinciplcs.     Others  think 
that  the  truest  wisdom  is  to  hold  fast  what  they  believe 
to  be  true,  and  let  the  contrast  strike  as  sharply  as 
possible  on  the  minds  of  their  antagonists,  with  such 
results   as    Providence  shall  determine.      It    is    not 
1* 


2IO  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

meant  here  to  repeat  the  arguments  that  were  brought 
forward  in  the  chapter  specially  devoted  to  this 
subject.  The  reader  will  form  his  own  judgment  of 
the  character  of  Damascenus  by  help  of  the  materials 
before  him.  I  am  not  aware  of  any  more  serious 
charge  that  can  be  brought  against  him  than  what 
has  been  adverted  to — a  tendency  to  over-credulity 
and  superstition;  and  having  given  its  full  promi- 
nence to  these  traits  in  his  character,  it  is  a  more 
pleasing  task  to  recapitulate  briefly  the  services  he 
has  rendered  to  religion  and  learning. 

As  a  preserver  of  ancient  learning,  in  an  age  and 
country  when  all  the  monuments  of  it  seemed  in 
peril  of  destruction  before  the  advancing  host  of 
Islam,  the  world  will  ever  be  indebted  to  him.  As 
has  been  seen,  it  is  not  certain  what  amount  of 
Aristotle  he  was  acquainted  with.^  But  he  has  left 
one  treatise  distinctly  based  on  the  "Categories;'' 
and  the  title  of  another,  "  De  Virtute  et  Vitio,"  as 
well  as  the  general  nature  of  it,^  seem  to  point  to  the 
"  De  Virtutibus  et  Vitiis,"  formerly  ascribed  to  the 
same  author.  In  what  he  has  left  on  the  subject  of 
natural  science,  if  we  may  dignify  it  by  this  now 
ambitious  title,  he  may  possibly  have  derived  his 
knowledge  from  the  "  De  coelo,"  or  the  "  Almagest  " 

'  See  on  this  subject  the  essay  of  M.  Renoux  :  "  De 
dialectica  Santi  Joannis  Damasceni,"  1863,  p.  30,  and  the 
references  there  given. 

-  This,  and  the  companion  piece,  "De  octo  Spiritibus 
nequitiae,"  appear  to  be  only  fragments  of  a  connected  treatise. 
In  their  present  form  they  possess  no  great  merit.  See  Perrier's 
essay  :  "Jean  Damascene,  sa  vie  et  ses  ecrits,"  1862,  p.  14. 


CONCLUSION.  211 

of  Ptolemy.  In  any  case,  poor,  even  childishly  poor, 
as  his  ac([uaintance  with  many  branches  of  human 
learning  must  now  be  thought,  if  compared  with 
modern  standards,  he  yet  has  left  us,  such  as  it  is, 
something  approaching  a  system  of  logic,  of  ethics, 
and  of  natural  philosophy. 

What  he  has  done  but  feebly  and  imperfectly  in 
the  department  of  secular  knowledge,  he  has  done  far 
more  fully  and  completely  in  that  of  theology.  Here, 
too,  it  is  chiefly  as  a  framer  of  systems  that  we  are 
indebted  to  him  :  his  work  is  of  the  nature  of  an 
encyclopaedia.  Making  theology  a  part  of  philo- 
sophy, as  Aristotle  had  done  before  him,  he  applied 
to  it  a  philosophic  method.  Taking  for  his  basis  the 
existence  of  God,  as  demonstrable  by  reason,  he 
organizes  step  by  step  the  whole  body  of  religious 
and  Christian  truth. ^  He  is  thus  the  progenitor  of 
scholasticism.  Though  this  proposition  has  been 
disputed,  as  an  exercise  for  academic  skill,-  it  is  still 
the  all  but  unanimous  verdict,  that  the  great  treatise 
on  the  "Orthodox  Faith"  was  "the  starting-point  of 
the  scholastic  system  "  that  aftenvards  grew  to  such 
proportions  in  the  West.  There  will,  no  doubt,  be 
ver\'  different  opinions  on  the  value  of  the  service 

'  See  De  Gcrando :  "  Histoire  comparce,"  1823,  t.  iv.,  p. 
159,  quoted  by  Neve  in  the  article  in  "  I^i  Bclgique"  before 
referred  to. 

*  As  by  F.  II.  J.  Grundlchner,  in  his  "Johannes  Damascenus: 
Academisch  Proefschrift,"  Utrecht,  1S76,  p.  257.  I  regret  that 
I  did  not  meet  with  this  work  till  my  own  was  all  but  com- 
pleted. The  author  gives  a  translation  in  Dutch  verse  of  some 
of  the  hymns  of  Damascenus. 

V   2 


212  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

thus  rendered.  Those  to  whom  systematic  theology, 
as  such,  is  distasteful,  and  who  object  to  doctrines 
becoming,  in  their  phrase,  "  crystallised  into  dogmas," 
will  be  little  disposed  to  thank  Damascenus  for  what 
he  has  done.  But  even  they  will  hardly  dispute  the 
reality  of  the  service  performed  by  one  who,  when 
Caliphs  were  striving  to  impose  the  Arabic  tongue  on 
Syria  and  other  Asiatic  conquests,  helped  so  mate- 
rially to  keep  the  lamp  of  Greek  learning  from  extinc- 
tion. Gregory  of  Nazianzus  wrote  Greek  with  con- 
siderable purity.  His  iambics  are  often  of  an  almost 
classic  elegance.  And  he  was  the  great  master  of 
John  Damascene.  The  numerous  quotations,  not 
only  from  him  but  from  a  multitude  of  Greek  authors 
besides,  found  both  in  the  "Fons  Scientiae"  and  the 
*'  Sacra  Parallela,"  would  provide  a  field  of  Hellenic 
literatu"re,  sufficient  for  the  wants  of  that  generation. 
In  having  so  provided  it,  and  having  thus  become  the 
initiator  of  a  warlike  but  ill-taught  race  into  the 
mysteries  of  an  earlier  civilisation,  Damascenus  is 
entitled  to  the  praise  that  the  elder  Lenormant 
awarded  him,  of  being  in  the  front  rank  of  the  master 
spirits  from  whom  the  genius  of  the  Arabs  drew  its 
inspiration. 

What  bearing  the  doctrinal  writings  of  John  of 
Damascus  have  on  modern  controversies,  especially 
that  with  the  Church  of  Rome,  has  been  partially 
discussed  in  an  earlier  chapter,  and  it  would  be 
beside  our  purpose  to  enter  upon  it  at  any  length 
here.  A  minister  of  a  Scottish  Presbyterian  Church 
in  Holland,  in  the  reign  of  Charles  H.,  would  not  be 
likely  to  read  with  too  favourable  eyes  the  works  of  a 


ib^^i^iQ 


C0N'CLU^)lON. 


13 


Greek  Father  of  the  eighth  century.  But  one  su(  h^ 
has  recorded  that,  setting  aside  his  maintenance  of 
images,  he  was  "  in  many  other  things  an  adversary 
to  the  present  doctrine  of  Rome."  As  evidence,  he 
cites  such  passages  as  the  following  against  the 
authority  of  tradition: — "All  that  is  given  unto  us 
by  the  Law  and  Prophets,  Apostles  and  Evangelists, 
we  embrace,  acknowledge,  and  reverence,  seeking  no 
further"  ("  De  Fide  Orthodo.xa,"  i,  c.  i).  Or  again, 
as  against  the  admission  of  the  apocryphal  books  : — 
"  After  he  hath  at  length  recommended  the  reading 
of  the  Scriptures,  he  reckoneth  the  books  of  the  Old 
Testament  according  to  the  Hebrew;  and  then  he 
saith,  *  The  Wisdom  of  Solomon,  and  of  Jesus  the 
Son  of  Sirach,  are  pleasant  and  good  ;  but  are  not 
numbered  among  the  prophetical  books,  nor  were 
put  into  the  ark'"  {lb.,  iv.,  c.  17).  Or  once  more: 
"In  cap.  25  he  commendeth  virginity,  and  then  he 
addeth,  'This  we  say,  not  derogating  from  marriage, 
God  forbid  !  for  we  know  that  God  blessed  marriage 
by  his  presence  ;  and  it  is  said,  marriage  is  honour- 
able amongst  all  men'  "  It  will  be  remembered  how 
plain  and  outspoken  were  his  words  on  the  culpable 
neglect  of  those — even  soldiers  and  husbandmen — 
who  did  not  read  the  Scriptures,  and,  for  lack  of 
the  sound  knowledge  they  would  thus  have  gained, 
fell  into  such  foolish  superstitions  as  those  he 
censures  about  dragons  and  evil  fairies. 


'  Alexander  Pctiic  :  "  .\  coni|)cndious  History  of  the  Catho- 
lick  Church,"  fol.  1662,  part  i.,  p.  SS.  The  passage  relating  lo 
IransubstanliatidO  lias  been  quolcd  before,  p.  128. 


2  14  ST.    JOHN    OF   DAMASCUS. 

One  more  topic  remains  to  be  noticed,  and  on  this 
we  may  speak  with  perhaps  the  least  reservation  or 
qualification  of  all.  That  is,  the  merit  of  John  of 
Damascus  as  the  author  of  hymns  still  used  in  the 
services  of  the  Church.  It  is  one  testimony  to  his 
greatness  in  this  respect,  that  many  hymns  are  attri- 
buted to  him,  which  in  all  probability  were  not  his, 
and  that  the  whole  system  of  modern  church  music 
is  sometimes  referred  to  him  as  well.  A  sort  of  haze 
surrounds  him,  from  this  point  of  view,  which  it  is  not 
easy  to  penetrate.  Gerbert,  in  his  "History  of  Sacred 
Music,"^  makes  him  perform  the  same  service  for  the 
Eastern  Church  that  Gregory  the  Great  had  done  for 
the  Western ;  that  is,  as  far  as  I  understand  it,  employ 
what  we  call  notes,  instead  of  letters  of  the  alphabet,  to 
indicate  musical  sounds,  and  certain  marks  or  charac- 
ters to  betoken  the  intervals  of  the  ascending  or  de- 
scending scale.  While  in  Latin  service  books,  adds 
this  authority,  musical  notes  are  not  found  before  the 

'  "  De  Cantu  et  Musica  sacra, "  auctore  Mardno  Gerberto,  1 7  74. 
vol.  ii.,  p.  I.  He  describes  the  invention  as  "novum  facilio- 
remque  cantandi  modum  per  notas  musicas,  loco  Graecorum 
characterum  onum  [szc,  lege  toniiui]  seu  cliordam  indicantium." 
The  invention  of  marks  to  denote  intervals  (the  scale  ?)  Gerbert 
assigns  to  Damascene  on  the  authority  of  Zarlino.  But  the 
merit  of  this  invention  is  denied  him  by  Fetis,  "Biographic 
universelle  des  Musiciens,"  1862,  t.  iii.,  p.  433,  although  he 
admits  that  Damascene  "doit  etre  considere  comme  le  refor- 
mateur  du  chant  de  I'^glise  grecque,  c'est  a  dire,  comme  ayant 
attache  son  nom  a  I'un  des  faits  les  plus  importants  de  I'histoire 
de  I'art."  The  second  volume  of  Mr.  Chappell's  "  History  of 
Music,"  which  would  cover  this  period,  has  not  yet,  I  believe, 
been  published. 


^^9m 


CONCLUSION. 


215 


ninth  century,  in  the  Greek  they  are  foimcl  a  century 
earlier;  that  is,  in  the  age  of  John  of  Damascus.  But, 
whatever  be  the  exact  nature  of  the  improvements  he 
introduced  into  Church  music,  it  is  evident  that,  like 
the  Emperor  Julian  before  him,^  he  saw  the  value  of 
choral  music  as  a  help  to  divine  worship,  and  brought 
to  bear  on  it  the  same  genius  for  method  and  system 
that  he  had  applied  to  doctrinal  theology.  The  high- 
flown  epithets  attached  to  his  name  in  the  service- 
books  of  the  Greek  Church,  "sweet-breathing  organ 
of  spiritual  songs,"  "  heavenly  lute  of  charming 
sound,"  and  the  like,  testify  at  least  to  the  grateful 
appreciation  of  his  merits  shown  by  the  members  of 
his  own  communion.  As  a  hymn-writer,  there  can 
be  no  question  of  the  high  i)lace  to  be  assigned  to 
John  Damascene.  A\'hatevcr  difficulty  there  may  be 
in  drawing  the  line  between  compositions  certainly 
his,  and  others  bearing  the  name  of  '*  John  the  Monk," 
or  *'  John  Arclas,"  enough  remains  of  undisputed 
authorship  to  justify  the  title  given  him  of  "  chief  of 
the  Greek  hymnodists."  And  this  may,  perhaps,  in 
the  end  give  him  the  truest  claim  on  the  admiration 
of  posterity.  His  services  will  not  be  forgotten,  as 
the  preserver  of  ancient  learning,  as  the  gatherer  of 
Christian  doctrines  into  a  system,  as  the  opponent 
alike    of    imperialism    and    Mahometanism,    as    the 


'  "He  gave  orders  at  Aiexantlria  for  the  education  of  taknled 
boys  for  the  public  performance  of  tcniple-^inging.  To  good 
singers  he  ojiened  the  best  prospects."  Ullmann's  "  Gregorj' 
of  Nazianzum"  (tr.  by  Cox),  p.  86  n.  Ulhnannadds:  "Would 
that  the  efforts  thus  made  by  Julian  for  Ais  faith  might  find  more 
imitators  among  Christians !" 


2l6  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

Doctor  of  Christian  art.  But  while  some  may  be 
found  to  doubt  the  beneficial  nature  of  his  work  in 
one  or  more  of  these  departments,  though  none 
would  dispute  his  distinction  in  them,  in  one  con- 
clusion all  must  agree.  There  can  be  no  greater 
glory  to  a  Christian  poet  than  to  have  furnished  the 
words  in  which  the  devotion  of  a  Church  finds  utter- 
ance. That  in  his  strains,  more  than  in  any  other, 
the  triumphant  joy  of  Easter,  and  the  solemn  fare- 
wells of  the  graveside,  should  alike  find  expression,  is 
surely  one  of  the  highest  tributes  that  can  be  paid 
him.  And  this  tribute,  this  high  prerogative,  has 
been  for  ages  awarded  to  John  of  Damascus  by  the 
Eastern  Church. 


"ms&esa&imitmaammma^/mmmt^tmm^ 


APPENDIX. 

V.   191. — The  STORIES  oi'  Josaphat  and  Bl'udha. 

Thl  points  of  resemblaiK  c  between  the  Barlaam  and 
fosaphat  and  the  Lalila  I'isfara,  or  legendary  Life  of 
Buddha,  are  so  interesting  as  to  deserve  more  than 
a  i)assing  allusion  in  a  note.  Attention  was  called  to 
the  subject  by  Professor  Max  Miiller,  in  a  Lecture 
on  the  "  Migration  of  Fables "  delivered  at  the 
Royal  Institution,  June  3rd,  1870,  and  afterwards 
published  in  the  Contemporary  Revitnu  for  the  fol- 
lowing July.  It  had  been  before  remarked  upon, 
as  Max  Miiller  obser\'es,  by  M.  Laboolaye  (in  the 
Debats^  1859),  by  Dr.  F.  Liebrecht  (in  \.\\q  JaJirbuc/i 
fiir  romanische  und  eyit^iische  Liferaiur,  Berlin,  i860), 
and  by  Mr.  Beal  (in  his  translation  of  the  Travels  of 
Fa  Jlian,  1869).  It  is  also  discussed  by  Dr.  Langen, 
in  his /o/ian/ies  von  Damaskus,  1879,  p.  251. 

The  similarity  of  the  stories  is  especially  seen  in  the 
accounts  of  the  bringing  up  of  the  young  princes, 
and,  above  all,  in  what  befel  each  of  them  during  his 
excursions  from  the  palace  where  he  had  been  con- 
fined. After  reading  what  has  been  stated  above  (p. 
191),  in  the  abstract  given  from  John  of  Damascus, 
let  any  one  turn  to  the  companion  i)icture,  and  he 
will  see  what  a  resemblance  there  is  between  them. 
"  In  the  Lalita  I'istara^'  says  Professor  Max  Miiller, 
— '*  the  Life,  though  no  doubt  the  legendary  Life,  of 
Buddha, — the  father  of  Buddha  is  a  king.  When  his 
son  is  born,  the  Brahman  Asita  predicts  that  he  will 
rise  to  great  glory,   and   become   either  a   powerful 


2l8  ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 

king,  or,  renouncing  the  throne  and  embracnig  the 
life  of  a  hermit,  become  a  Buddha.  The  great 
object  of  his  father  is  to  prevent  this.  He  therefore 
keeps  the  young  prince,  when  he  grows  up,  in  his 
garden  and  palaces,  surrounded  by  all  pleasures 
which  might  turn  his  mind  from  contemplation  to 
enjoyment.  More  especially,  he  is  to  know  nothing 
of  illness,  old  age,  and  death,  which  might  open  his 
eyes  to  the  misery  and  unreality  of  life.  After  a  time, 
however,  the  prince  receives  permission  to  drive  out ; 
and  then  follow  the  three  drives  so  famous  in  Bud- 
dhist history." — Without  following  out  the  parallel 
in  all  its  details,  it  may  be  added,  in  brief,  that  on 
his  first  drive,  through  the  Eastern  gate,  the  youthful 
Buddha  is  met  by  a  decrepit  old  man,  and  turns  back. 
On  his  second  drive,  through  the  Southern  gate,  he 
is  met  by  a  sick  man ;  on  his  third  through  the 
Western,  by  a  corpse ;  and  on  his  fourth,  through  the 
Northern  gate,  by  a  religious  mendicant,  or  devotee, 
whose  example  he  resolves  to  follow.  The  towers 
commemorating  these  drives  are  said  to  have  been 
standing  as  late  as  the  seventh  century. 

No  doubt  there  are  minor  discrepancies.  Josaphat 
is  described  as  meeting  two  men  on  his  first  excur- 
sion, one  bhnd,  the  other  maimed  (or,  as  it  is  in  the 
Latin  version,  a  leper)  ;  and  as  not  making  any  third 
journey.  The  monk  Barlaam  is  sent,  instead,  to 
visit  him.  Still,  the  general  similarity  remains.  Each 
ends  by  converting  his  royal  father,  and  each  dies  a 
saint.  And,  if  it  should  come  to  be  regarded  as 
certain,  that  in  this  "  Profitable  History,  brought 
from  the  interior  region  of  the  Ethiopians,  called 
India,"  we  have  indeed  only  another  version  of  the 
Life  of  Buddha,  it  will  furnish  matter  (as  Max  Miiller 
points  out)  for  very  instructive  reflection,  that  Bar- 
laam and  Josaphat  should  have  been  canonized  both 
in  the  Eastern  and  Western  Church. 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


219 


INDEX 


A  BAN  A,  the,  6 

Abd  al  Malek,  19 

Abenner,  188 

Abgar,  53 

/Ethiopia,  1S7 

Air,  176 

Algebra,  27  n.,  167 

Anastasius,  58,  60 

Annunciation,  sermon  on  the, 

125 
Aquinas,  St.  Thomas,  indebted 

to  John   of  Damascus,   70, 

88 
Arabians,  the,  services  of,  to 

learning,    67,    166,    184  n.; 

early  religion  of,  91 
Aristotle,  treatises  of,  67,  210  ; 

translations    of,    68,     169  ; 

philosophy   of,     167,     169  ; 

the  De  C^A?  of,  170,  183 
Assumption,    meaning   of   the 

term,    130  n.  ;  story  of  the, 

131  ;  sermons  on  the,  129 
Astrology,  174 

P.. 

Baodai),  67,  184 
Bagradas,  the,  179 
Barada,  the,  6 
Barbara,  St.,  199,  204 
Barlaam,  the  monk,  192 


Barlaam  and  Josaphat,  the, 
185,  217 

Basil,  St.,  183;  quoted,  163 

Bible,  the,  books  of,  85,  213  ; 
authorised  version  of,  134, 
161  n.  ;  knowledge  of,  157  ; 
study  of,  180,  213  ;  com- 
mentaries on,  161,  165 

Bourgade,  I'Abbc  de,  100 

Brompton,  Jc^hn  of,  70 

Buddha,  Life  of,  191  n.,  217 

Bungus,  Petrus,  108 

C. 

Canon,  145 

Capita  Philosophica,  the,  66 

Chabatha,  the,  96 

Chalcedon,  Council  of,  38 

Chaucer,  167,  173,  182  n., 
184  n. 

Chrysorroas,  the,  135 

Chrysostom,  St.  John,  sermon 
of  {?),  119;  pancg)'ric  on, 
135  ;  life  of,  137  ;  quoted, 
162,  164;  opinions  of,  171 

Church,  the  Greek,  state  of, 
37,  44;  tenets  of,  75  n., 
122  n.,  186  ;  rites  of,  80  n. 

Colet,  Dean,  79,  86  n.,  Ii5n, 

Communion,  interruption  of 
between  East  and  West,  44, 

Constantinc  Copronymus,  59, 
61 


220 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


Constantinople,  image  at,  57 
Continents,  measurements   of, 

177 
Controversies,        in        Greek 

Church,    42  ;    with    Rome, 

212 
Copronymus,  origin  of  name, 

62  n. 
Cosmas,  the  elder,  26,  32  n. 
Cosmas,  the  younger,  27,  30, 

33  n.,  66 
Creation,  described,  122,  172 
Cross,    inscription   on   a,    58  ; 

images  of  the,  81  ;  emblem 

of  the,  126 


D. 


Damascius,  24 

Damascus,    history    of,    2-5 ; 

rivers  of,  5  ;  situation  of,  7  ; 

capture  of,   17  ;   Church  of, 

18  ;    fanaticism    of  modern 

inhabitants  of,  5 
Dionysius,  Pseudo-Areopagita, 

.37,39.  71,  109,  132  n. 
Diophantus,  27 
Docetism,  92 
Dragons,   superstitions   about, 

178 
Dyothelete,    doctrines   called, 

40 


East,  turning  to  the,  81 

Easter  Day,  observances  on, 
147  ;  hymn  for,  148 

Easter  Eve — see  Holy  Satur- 
day 

Eastern  Church,  hymns  of  the, 
141  ;  see  also  2mderC^\yxc\\, 
the  Greek 

Edessa,  184 ;  bishop  of,  53 

Epiphanius,  68 


Erasmus,  79,  172  n. 
Eucharist,  the  Holy,  82,  127 


Fairies,  evil,  179 

Fide  orthodoxa,  Liber  dc,  65, 
70,  170,  182  n.,  211;  ana- 
lysis of,  72 

Fig-tree,  the  withered,  sermon 
on,  113 

Filioque,  the  clause,  122  n. 

Fons  Scientice,  the,  65 

Franciscus  Coventriensis,  1 70  n. 

Funeral  hymn,  150 

G. 

Georgius  Cedrenus,  54  n. 
Germanus,   patriarch,   53,    56, 
60 

Germanus  H.,  pope,  letter  ot, 

5? 
Ghevond,  47  n. 
Gibbon,  17  n.,  49  n,,  57  n. 
Golden  Legend,  the,  186,  198, 

201  n. 
Good  Friday,  sermon  on,  117 
Gregory,  the  Great,  52 
GrcL^ory,  Nazianzen,  108,   144, 

186,  212;  quoted,  162,  164 

H. 

Haran,  7  n. 

Hcercsibiis,  Liber de,  65,  68,  98 

Heaven,  physical  theories  of, 

76,  170 
Heraclius,  16,  40,  92 
Heimon,  Mount,  105 
Hetcerists,  94 
Hirmos,  145,  148 
Hisham,  caliph,  20 
Holy  Saturday,  sermon  on,  12 1 
Humours,  the  four,  182 


INDEX. 


221 


Hymns,  meaning  of  the  term, 
141  ;  nature  of  early,  142; 
versions  uf  Greek,  31,  33  n., 
34  n.,  14S,  150-4 

Hypostasis,  77 

I. 

Iconoclastic      controversy, 

the,  46,  51 
Icons,  the  sacreJ,  51,  207 
Idiomcla,    142  n.  ;    translation 

of,  150 
Image,  destruction  of  an,  57 
Image-worship,    definition   of, 

53  n.,   85,    207;    arguments 

for,    54,    55   n.,    181,    208; 

growth  of,  52,  85  n,,  208 
India,  confused   with   v'Ethio- 

pia,  187 
Irene,  the  empress,  62 

J- 
Joachim  and  Anna,  SS.,  133 
Joannes  Philoponus,  22 
Joasaph,  or  Josaphat,  190,  217 
John,  St.,  of  Damascus,  birth 
of,    19  ;    biography   of,    23, 
203  ;     opponent    of   Maho- 
metan ism,     90  ;      Apolo^es 
o^  54>  5S  ;  I"ons  Stientiic  of, 
64 ;  sermons  of,    102  ;   Bib- 
lical commentaries  of,  156; 
h)'mns    of,    32,    141,     215  ;  | 
doubtful    writings  of,    185  ; 
style  of,  137,  139  n.,  197  n.,   | 
202  n.  ;  imbued  w  ith   iJible  ' 
phraseology,    134  ;    state  of 
text  of,  106  n.,   173  n.  ;  im- 
prover   of    Church    music,   1 
155  n.  ;      scientific     know-  I 
ledge    of,     166,    178,    183,   ! 
211  ;  credulity  of,  207  ;  ser- 
vices of,   to   learning,   210  ; 
systcmali/.cr     of     thecWogy,   ^ 
211;  general  estimate  of,  263 


John,  patriarch,  23,  27  n.,  330. 
Josaphat — see  Joasaph 

K. 

Kaaha,  the— -fcY  Chabatha 

Kaled,  18 

Koran,   the,   91  ;    legends  in, 

Kuraish,   or  Korcish,  tribe  of 
the,  14 


L. 

Laura,  12 

Leo  the  I  saurian,  24,  209  ; 
edicts  of,  28,  56  ;  letter  of, 
47  n.  ;    character  of,  49  n., 

Lequien,  editor  of  Damascenu?, 

65  n.,  203 
Lombard,  Peter,  70 


M. 


^L^HOMET,    14,    100,  207  n.  ; 

doctrines  of,  92 
Mahometan  controversy,    the, 

90,  93.  99 
Mahometanism,  spread  of,  14 
Man,  nature  of,  182 
Mansour,  name  of,  25  n.,  61  n. 
Manzer,  61  n. 
Mar  Saba,  the,  8 
Marcianus,  200 
Marriage,  87.  213 
Maximianus  IL,  199 
Maximus,  St.,  41 
Measurements,     geographical, 

177 
Medina,  15 
Metaphor,  forced,  124 
Metre   of  hymns,  143,  15411, 
Microcosm,  the,  1 18 


222 


ST.    JOHN    OF    DAMASCUS. 


Miraculous  powers,  205,  207  n. 
Moawyah,  19 
Monks,  Greek,  10 
Monophysite,     doctrines      so 

called,  39,  45 
Musa,  Mahommed  Ben,  167  n. 
Music,  in  Eastern  Church,  155 

N. 

Nativity,  of  St.   Mary,  ser- 
mons on  the,  129 
Nature,  77 

Neale,  Dr.  J.  jNI,,  142  n. 
Nestorians,  15,  169 
Nestorius,  78 
Nicasa,  council  at,  62 
Nicephorus  Phocas,  23 
Nicknames,  61  n. 
Nilus,  quoted,  164 
Numbers,  mysteries  of,  108 

O. 

Ocean,  the,  177 
Ockley,  Simon,  17  n.,  96  n. 
Octoechos,  the,  154 
Omar  II.,  caliph,  47  n. 
Omeiyah,  or  Moawiyah,  19,  20 
Opposites,  cured  by  opposites, 
115 

P. 

Palladius,  bishop,  138  n. 
Paradise,  rivers  of,  76,  177 
Parallela  Sacra,  the,  159 
Passion,  darkness  at  the,  125 
Peter,  the  Fuller,  77 
Petrie,  Alexander,  212-3 
Pharpar,  the,  7 
Philo  Judrcus,  163 
Planets,  the,  173,  176 
Plotinus,  37,  76 
Prayer,  the  Lord's,  79  ;  trans- 
lation of  a,  152 


Problem,  a  peripatetic,  172  n. 
Ptolemy,    Almagest    of,     183, 

210 
Purgatory,  205 


R. 


Rain,  formation  of,  177 
Rasselas,  1S8 
Redemption,  man's,  124 
Robber,  the  crucified,  120 
Rochefoucauld,  cardinal,  I56n. 


S. 


Sabas,  St.,  12;  monastery  of, 
8,  27 

Sabbath,  ordinance  of  the,  86 

Sacraments,  81 

Saladin,  tomb  of,  18 

Saracens,  the,  name  of,  69, 
90  ;  influence  of,  on  learn- 
ing, 21 

Saturnian  metre,  the,  144 

Scholasticism,  211 

Science,  natural,  166 

Scripture,  Holy — see  Bible 

Senaar,  land  of,  187 

Septuagint  version,  134 

Sepulchre,  Church  of  the 
Holy,  147 

Sergius,  father  (?)  of  John  of 
Damascus,  25  n. 

Sergius,  patriarch,  40 

Sermons,  of  Damascenus,  102 

Sicily,  conquest  of,  26  n. 

Sound,  and  sight,  180 

Stephen,  St.,  the  Sabaite,  34  n. 

Stephanus,  the  monk,  59 

Sticheron,  149  n. 

Straight,  the  street  called,  3 

Superstitions,  179,  213 

Syria,  early  state  of,  15  ;  ser- 
vices of,  to  learning,  168 

Syriac  language,  the,  68 


INDF.X. 


T. 

Tabor,  mount,  104 

Text,  state  of  the  Greek,   in 

Damascenu?,     106  n.,     129, 

173  n.,  i-jSn. 
Theophanes,  25  n. 
Theotokos,  title  of,  38,  85,  146 
Thomas  a  Cecket,  59 
Thunder,  cause  of,  179 
Tones,  the  eight,  150  n.,  154 
Transfiguration,  the,  107 
Transubstantiation,  85,  128  n. 
Troparion,  145 
Tj'/'c,  the,  42 

U. 

UzziAH  (for  Ilezekiah),  59 

V. 

Vienna,   manuscripts  of  Da- 

mascenus  at,  203 
Virginity,  87,  213 


^V. 


Wakidy  (E1-),  work  of,  17  n. 
Walid  I.,   caliph,   18;  Walid 
!       11.,  20 
Waterland,  bishop,  83 
Wcrdan  (Varangian  general  ?), 

17 

Western    Church,    hymns    of 

the,  143 
Will,  meaning  of  the  term,  97 
Wintl,  cause  of,  177 
Word  of  God,  the,  95,  98 
Worship,    different    meanings 

of  the  term,  53  n.,  69  n. 

X. 

Xenoi'HON,  the  hermit,  12 
Y. 


Yathrib  (Medina),  15 
Year,    solar  and    lunar, 

divisions  of  the,  173 
Yezid,  caliph,  20 


176 


THE    END. 


"U   SONS,    PRINTERS,    GREAT   QVEEN    STREET,    LONDON,    \V,C. 


1    1012  01 


01   9769 


Date  Due 


FE  io  oj 


mffim 


^ 


— ^ 


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